US Army Sergeant to Plead Guilty to Slaughtering 16 Afghan VillagersS

As part of a deal to avoid the death penalty, US Staff Sergeant Robert Bales will plead guilty to slaughtering 16 villagers in Afghanistan last year. The plea bargain will require Bales to publicly discuss the attack for the first time.

John Henry Browne, Bales's attorney, told the Associated Press that Bales will enter guilty pleas to charges of premeditated murder during a hearing on June 5.

"The judge will be asking questions of Sgt. Bales about what he did, what he remembers and his state of mind," said Browne, who told the AP the commanding general has already approved the deal. "The deal that has been worked out ... is they take the death penalty off the table, and he pleads as charged, pretty much."

Both the Army and Afghan relatives of the victims had pushed for Bales's excution. From a series of AP interviews with the victims' family members last month:

"For this one thing, we would kill 100 American soldiers," vowed Mohammed Wazir, who had 11 family members killed that night, including his mother and 2-year-old daughter.

"A prison sentence doesn't mean anything," said Said Jan, whose wife and three other relatives died. "I know we have no power now. But I will become stronger, and if he does not hang, I will have my revenge.”

Those family members received an $860,000 payout from the US government last spring, or approximately $50,000 for each person killed and $10,000 for each person injured.

According to testimony from a hearing last fall, Bales returned to his base mid-attack, woke up a soldier and confessed. When the solider didn't believe him, Bales returned to the village to kill more Afghans. He piled and burned many of the victims, most of whom were women and children.

Browne claims Bales, who was on his fourth combat deployment, was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and brain damage, and should not have been redeployed by the Army. "He's broken, and we broke him," Browne said, adding later, "My personal goal is to save Bob from the death penalty. Getting the public to pay more attention to the war is secondary to what I have to do."

[Associated Press/Image via AP]

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