US soldier gets life in prison without release for killing 16 Afghans
This August 23, 2011 photograph obtained courtesy of the Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS) shows Staff Sgt. Robert Bales (L) at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California (AFP Photo)
A military jury has sentenced the United States soldier responsible for the ambush on two Afghan villages last year that left 16 civilians dead to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
One day after Staff Sgt. Robert Bales apologized in court for the 2012 rampage, a jury said Friday that he’ll have to spend the rest of his life behind bars without the option of ever petition for his release.
Bales was the only soldier involved in storming two small Afghan villages before dawn on the morning of March 11, 2012. He pleaded guilty to the murders earlier this year in exchange for a deal that let him escape the possibility of being executed for the crimes. In turn, the jury was asked to determine whether Bales should be sentenced to life in prison with or without the option of an eventual release pending good behavior. On Friday, the jury elected to decide the latter.
"What I did is an act of cowardice," Bales said at his court-martial on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington on Thursday. "I'm a mass of fear and bullshit and bravado. I'm truly, truly sorry to those people whose families got taken away."
Earlier in the proceedings, Army prosecutors called on witnesses to testify against Bales, including the family members of those killed during the rampage.
"What did I do wrong against Sgt. Bales that he shot my father?" a 5-year-old child identified as Kahn asked the court, the LA Times reported.
“There's not a good reason in this world for why I did the horrible things I did,” Bales said when he entered his guilty plea this past June.
Bales, 40, is a father of two and served three tours in the Iraq War before last year’s rampage in the villages of Balandi and Alkozai in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. Although he apologized to the court and his victims during a statement earlier this week, prosecutors called into question Bales’ sincerity and said they had a recording of him laughing about the charges during a phone call with his wife.
“I'm a mass of fear and bullshit and bravado. I'm truly, truly sorry to those people whose families got taken away,” he said Thursday.
Sentencing in the Bales case was announced moments after jurors on a court-martial in Texas convicted Army Maj. Nidal Hasan on 16 counts of murder and 32 counts of attempted murder for a 2009 massacre at the Fort Hood military base. Following the penalty phase of the proceedings, Hasan could be sentenced to death for his crimes.