Afghan killing suspect arrives at Lewis-McChord for hearing

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - A U.S. soldier accused of an Afghan killing spree was flown to Washington state from Kansas on Saturday in preparation for a military court hearing next month, his attorney says.

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales has been held at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., since the killings last March. He was flown Saturday to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where a pretrial hearing in the case is set to begin on Nov. 5, said his attorney, John Henry Browne.

The hearing, known in military parlance as an Article 32 hearing, is expected to last two weeks. Afghan villagers who witnessed the attacks are expected to testify by video from Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan.

Browne said he plans to fly to Afghanistan to cross-examine the witnesses, while other members of the defense team remain at Lewis-McChord, near Tacoma.

Investigators say Bales, a father of two from Lake Tapps, was equipped with a 9-mm pistol and M-4 rifle outfitted with a grenade launcher when he walked off his base in southern Afghanistan on March 11, attacked two local villages and burned some of the victims' bodies.

Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, an investigating officer must determine the sufficiency of the charges against a defendant before the case can proceed to a court martial. The officer reviews evidence and hears from witnesses during the Article 32 hearing, then makes a decision.

Bales faces 16 counts of premeditated murder; six of attempted murder; seven of assault; one of possessing steroids; one of using steroids; one of destroying a laptop computer; one of burning bodies; and one of using alcohol.