For the first time since he was taken into custody seven months ago, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is back at Joint Base Lewis-McChord awaiting a pretrial hearing on charges that he murdered 16 Afghan civilians while deployed with a Stryker brigade.
Bales, a former Lake Tapps resident and the father of two, had been confined at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., since March. An Army spokesman confirmed that he arrived Monday evening at Lewis-McChord’s Regional Confinement Center.
He is expected to have a two-week pretrial hearing beginning Nov. 5 at Lewis-McChord, where his defense attorney can interview all of the prosecution’s witnesses, including Afghan civilians from the rural Panjwai district in Kandahar province. That’s where Bales allegedly slipped out of his combat outpost and massacred noncombatants, including women and children, in two villages.
His confinement at Lewis-McChord will allow him to communicate more easily with his family in the Puget Sound area and with his defense team.
“He can see his wife, he can see his children on a more regular basis,” Emma Scanlan, one of his attorneys, told Northwest News Network. “He’s going have much better access to his counsel, which is important in terms of his case going forward, so we are very happy that he is coming out here.”
Bales faces the death penalty if he’s convicted of murder. That offense carries a mandatory minimum of a life sentence under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Bales is still assigned to the 3rd Brigade, though at the time of the massacre he was assigned to a unit that was splintered off for a mission working with Special Forces at outposts across southern Afghanistan.