Staff Sgt. Robert Bales participates in an exercise at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., in this Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System file photo from August 2011.
On Friday, the U.S. military took a significant step in the case of Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the American soldier accused of killing 17 civilians in Afghanistan on March 11, by formally charging him with 17 counts of murder, along with other alleged crimes. Although the turnaround time for this installment was relatively short, given the international sensitivity of Bales’ case, this is likely to be a long and involved legal process, as USA Today explains below. —KA
Bales was also charged with six counts of attempted murder and six counts of aggravated assault, the U.S. military said in an announcement.
Bales is accused of slipping off a combat outpost in southern Afghanistan and slaughtering villagers as they slept.
He could face the death penalty if convicted, though the military has not executed anyone since the early 1960s.
The charges are an initial step in the military’s legal system. Next, Bales will face an Article 32 hearing, which is roughly equivalent to a civilian grand jury proceeding. If the charges hold up in that proceeding, he would face a general court-martial.