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JBLM hearing set in Afghanistan killing spree

Oct. 12, 2012 - 11:49AM   |   Last Updated: Oct. 12, 2012 - 11:49AM  |  
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JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. — A hearing for the soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians has been set for Nov. 5 at an Army base in Washington state, with villagers expected to testify by video from Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is expected to appear at Joint Base Lewis-McChord for the pretrial hearing, which is expected to last two weeks, Lt. Col. Gary Dangerfield said. The second week of the hearing will be held in the evening so villagers can testify during daylight hours in Afghanistan.

Defense lawyer John Henry Browne plans to fly to Afghanistan to cross-examine the witnesses while other members of the defense team remain at Lewis-McChord, south of Seattle.

The hearing under Article 32 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice will determine whether Bales, of Lake Tapps, Wash., faces court-martial.

Bales faces 16 counts of premeditated murder; six counts of attempted murder; seven counts of assault; and one count each of possessing steroids, using steroids, destroying a laptop, burning bodies and using alcohol. He's being held in the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

Investigators say Bales was armed with a 9 mm pistol and M-4 rifle outfitted with a grenade launcher when he walked off his base in southern Afghanistan on March 11 and went on a nighttime killing spree.

Browne told The Seattle Times that more than 10 Afghans could be called as witnesses, and some have been difficult to round up. Brown said the hearing is important because it may be his only opportunity to question them.

Bales could face the death penalty if convicted.

Bales deployed three times to Iraq before being sent to Afghanistan with the 3rd Stryker Brigade. He was at a Special Forces outpost at the time of the killings.

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