John Henry Browne, the lawyer for Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, questioned the military's case against his client. NBC's John Yang reports.
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. – Wake up, 5 a.m.; breakfast, 5:15 a.m.; clean-up chores, 6:50 a.m. until 11:20 a.m., and so on until lights out at 10:05 p.m.
That’s Staff Sgt. Robert Bales’ daily routine in a medium/minimum security pre-trial detention facility in a remote corner of this sprawling 5,600-acre Army post. Bales is the American soldier accused of massacring 16 civilians in southern Afghanistan. His lawyer, John Henry Browne, says the 17-month-old facility is cleaner than many civilian prisons he’s seen.
For Bales, it’s a relatively lonely existence. He’s in a special cell by himself – solitary confinement – not the usual four-prisoner bays. He’s made use of the recreation facilities, according to prison officials, and has met with the prison chaplain, according to Browne.
Like all new inmates, he’s in a black-out period of about a week while he’s processed and classified – no access to phones or e-mail. Later he will have access to email, that will be monitored by authorities, but not Internet access, according to his lawyer. And he will be able to keep books, newspapers and magazines.
Browne says Army officials are working to make an exception for Bales so he may speak with his wife, Karilyn, by phone; their only contact since he was arrested March 12 was a 30-minute phone conversation when he was held in Kuwait. They are also arranging for Karilyn Bales to travel from Seattle to see her husband for the first time since he left for Afghanistan in December.
The 464-bed facility also houses military convicts sentenced to up to five years of imprisonment. But the two populations are kept apart, according to Browne, Bales’ interactions are currently limited to guards and the chaplain.
John Henry Browne, the attorney for U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, speaks about the long and emotional first face-to-face meeting with his client. NBC's John Yang reports.
Interestingly, the facility holds a few other noteworthy pre-trail detainees – including PFC Bradley Manning, accused of giving classified documents to Wikileaks.
Browne, who’s previous clients include serial killer Ted Bundy, said his 11 hours with Bales were some of the most emotional he’s ever spent, as his client described his three deployments to Iraq and the three months in Afghanistan leading up to the shooting rampage.
“He's dragged pieces of bodies all over the place and had people shot out from right next to him,” Browne told NBC News. “Things that are hard to imagine.... If you saw the movie ‘The Hurt Locker,’ well, that's like a Disney movie compared to what he's gone through,” he said, referring to the Academy Award-winning film about a bomb disposal unit in Iraq.
Contrary to reports from villagers where the massacre took place, U.S. military officials say there is no evidence of an IED attack on Americans around the time of the shooting that killed 16 Afghan civilians. NBC's Jim Miklaszewski reports.
It was Browne and Bales’ first face-to-face meeting; all previous conversations were by phone. Bales’ first questions to him, according to Browne? “‘How are the boys on the ground? How are my buddies? I'm really worried about them. I'm really worried that this allegation will make their lives more difficult.’” And all of the rest of the questions were about his family. Not once did he ask about his own plight, according to Browne.
“If I was in a life threatening situation, I would want him next to me,” Browne said.
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