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Staff Sgt. Bales pleads guilty to slaying 16 Afghan villagers

June 05, 2013|By Matt Pearce
  • In this detail from a courtroom sketch, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, left, stands before military judge Col. Jeffery Nance during a plea hearing in a military courtroom at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. Bales pleaded guilty to killing villagers in Afghanistan.
In this detail from a courtroom sketch, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales,… (Peter Millett / Associated…)

The U.S. Army staff sergeant accused of slaughtering 16 Afghan villagers in 2012 pleaded guilty to the massacre Wednesday.

Robert Bales, 39, accepted a plea deal that would spare him from the death penalty for the overnight attacks on two villages in southern Afghanistan.

As part of the deal, Bales recounted the night of the attack for the first time publicly, with some prodding from the military judge heading his tribunal at Joint Base Lewis-McChord outside Seattle.

Bales admitted shooting the villagers and burning their bodies but said he didn't remember setting them on fire. “Sir, I understand it is against their cultural norms," Bales told the judge of the burnings, according to the Associated Press.

Bales said he had struggled with one village grandmother, Na’ikmarga, before killing her, and that “after the tussle” he decided to “murder anyone that he saw," according to the AP.

The judge, Col. Jeffery Nance, asked Bales why he attacked the villages.

"Sir, as far as why: I've asked that question a million times since then," said Bales, according to the AP. "There's not a good reason in this world for why I did the horrible things I did."

Bales' wife was reportedly in attendance during the hearing.

Bales also confessed to an apparently unrelated assault at the base a month before in which he hit a man unloading a truck with his fists and knees, the AP reported.

He also discussed his use of steroids, which he said increased his "irritability and anger." He said he started taking the drug to stay fit and to recover faster from strenuous duties.

Bales' sentencing was set for August, when a jury will determine whether to give him a life sentence with or without the possibility of parole.

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