Staff. Sgt. Robert Bales, accused of killing 16 Afghans, will have a pretrial hearing that will span two continents, according to an Army official.
The hearing is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 5, with Bales appearing at a Joint Base Lewis-McChord courtroom while villagers are expected to testify at Kandahar Air Field in southern Afghanistan, according to Lt. Col. Gary Dangerfield, I Corps deputy public-affairs officer at the Western Washington base.
The Article 32 hearing is expected to last about two weeks, with an Army investigative officer gathering evidence.
The first week is expected to be scheduled during the daytime hours at Lewis-McChord, according to Dangerfield.
The second week is expected to unfold during the base's evening hours, so that a half-a-world away, villagers will be able to testify during daylight hours in Afghanistan.
Bales defense attorney, John Henry Browne, says he plans to fly to Afghanistan to cross-examine these witnesses, while other members of the defense team remain at Lewis-McChord with his client.
Bales allegedly went on a night rampage on March 11 of this year, killing 16 people, mostly women and children. He also is accused of other crimes, including burning bodies, taking illegal steroids, violating a ban on drinking alcohol in the war zone and impeding the investigation by illegally damaging a laptop computer.
The Afghans who testify at Kandahar Air Field are expected to offer details about the murders. Browne said more than 10 Afghans could possibly be called to the witness stand, and added that some of the witness have been "difficult to round up."
"This may be our only shot at them, if they don't show up for the trial," Browne said, "so this (hearing) becomes more important."
Browne said the defense team has received some 5,000 pages of documents from the Army about the Bales case. The evidence also includes some classified surveillance tapes.
Browne said defense attorneys have not yet reviewed any forensic evidence, which he expected would made available later this month.
Bales enlisted in the Army in 2001. He has served his entire Army career at Lewis-McChord, where he has been assigned to the 3rd (Stryker) Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.
Bales deployed three times to Iraq, and then to Afghanistan.
Though still part of the 3rd Brigade, while in Afghanistan, Bales was at a Special Forces outpost at the time the slayings took place.
Bales is currently being held at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or email@example.com