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Bales Charged With 17 Counts of Murder Over Afghan Massacre

Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales was formally charged Friday with 17 counts of murder, six counts of attempted murder and six counts of aggravated assault in connection with a massacre of civilians in Afghanistan, according to military officials. Jeffrey Brown reports.

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    Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales was formally charged with premeditated murder and other counts today in the shooting rampage outside Kandahar, Afghanistan. If convicted, Bales would face a minimum of life in prison, and possibly the death penalty.

    In addition to the 17 counts of murder, Robert Bales stands charged with six counts of attempted murder and six counts of aggravated assault. Initial reports said 16 Afghan civilians were killed, nine of them children and 11 from the same family. Military officials revised the number to 17, but offered no immediate explanation.

    While much is known of the alleged assailant, there has been less told of the dead, though NPR's Quil Lawrence this week spoke with Muhammad Wazir, who lost 11 relatives in the massacre.

  • MAN (through translator):

    Like anyone, I wanted my children to be doctors, engineers, important people. All my dreams are buried under a pile of dust now. I loved them all like they were parts of my own body. I miss all of them terribly.


    Back in the United States, Bales' civilian lawyer, John Henry Browne, spent 11 hours meeting with him this week. Browne appeared today on "CBS This Morning."

    JOHN HENRY BROWNE, attorney for Robert Bales: My first reaction to all of this is, prove it. This is going to be a very difficult case for the government to prove, in my opinion. There is no crime scene. There is no CSI stuff. There's no DNA. There's no fingerprints.


    Bales was charged at the U.S. military prison at Fort Leavenworth, where he's been held since last week. He joined the Army in 2001, after working in investment banking. After his name first became public, former neighbors and comrades spoke highly of him. More recently, other details have emerged.

    In 2003, for example, he was reportedly ordered to pay a $1.5 million fine for securities fraud. And, in 2002, he was arrested for drunken assault and ordered to anger management training.

    In public statements, his attorney has laid the groundwork for a defense on Bales' mental state, citing an untreated concussive injury and longstanding memory issues.

    Today, attorney John Henry Browne said one thing was clear.


    I don't want to put the government on trial. I certainly don't want to put the military on trial that I respect gratefully — greatly. But I think the war is on trial.


    Legal proceedings are now expected to move to Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.