Soldier to Avoid Death Penalty by Admitting Afghan Massacre: Report

Mike O'Brien

The soldier accused of the massacre of 16 Afghan civilians in a "crazed" rampage through two villages is to plead guilty next week to avoid the death penalty, according to a report on Thursday.

Then attorney for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales said he was "broken" when he slipped away from his remote southern outpost to slaughter mainly women and children.

John Henry Browne told The Associated Press that Bales will give an account of that fatal night in March 11, 2012, when he appears in court next week.

He said Bales’s testimony would not amount to a defense of insanity, but his client was on his fourth tour of duty and was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury.

Mr. Browne told the AP: "He's broken, and we broke him."

The Army had been seeking the death sentence for Bales and the prospect of a plea deal is sure to anger many.

A plea hearing is set for June 5, where any deal must be approved by the judge as well as the commanding general at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where Bales is being held.

If a deal is reached, a sentencing-phase trial set for September will decide whether Bales gets life in prison with or without the possibility of parole. The military justice system hasn't executed anyone since 1961.

Testimony at a hearing last fall revealed that Bales had been drinking contraband alcohol and had taken Valium and steroids before the attack.

Several villagers in Afghanistan who spoke to the AP said they feel betrayed by the American military justice system, saying that the death sentence was the only option.

One villager, who lost 11 family members in the attack, said: "For this one thing, we would kill 100 American soldiers."