Soldier to Plead Guilty in Afghanistan Village Killing Spree that Left 16 Dead

Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales intends to plead guilty to premeditated murder next week for the shooting deaths of 16 Afghan villagers last year, Bales' attorney told ABC News.

Pleading guilty would allow Bales to avoid the death penalty.

John Henry Browne, the Seattle lawyer who represents Bales, confirmed an Associated Press report that Bales would plead guilty during a brief phone conversation from Joint Base Lewis McChord in Washington state, where he said he was meeting with his client.

Bales, 39, will enter a plea next Wednesday at a hearing to be held at the Army post outside of Seattle, Browne said.

Bales will plead guilty to the charges of premeditated murder, for which he could have faced the death penalty if convicted, the AP reported.

The judge in the case and the commanding general serving as the convening authority for the court martial would have to approve the plea deal.

A plea hearing is scheduled to take place next Wednesday, June 5, said Lt. Col. Gary Dangerfield, a spokesman for I Corps public affairs.

At the hearing, Dangerfield said, "Bales is expected to enter a plea."

Dangerfield said he did not know what the plea would be as he did not have access to that information.

Bales' trial was set to get underway on Sept. 3.

Bales did not testify at the evidentiary hearing held last November that determined he should face a court martial for the shootings.

Bales will give a full account of what happened the night of the shootings at next week's plea hearing, Browne said, according to the AP.

Browne has indicated in the past that Bales did not remember much from the night of the shootings.

On the night of March 11, 2012, Bales is alleged to have snuck out of his unit's camp in a remote area of southern Afghanistan to conduct separate shooting attacks on two nearby villages. Sixteen villagers were killed and six others were wounded in the shooting spree. Most of the victims were women and children.

He was detained by fellow soldiers after he was caught sneaking back onto his post. At the time, the soldiers were conducting a search for his whereabouts because they did not know where he had gone.

At the evidentiary hearing, villagers who survived the attack were able to testify via satellite from Afghanistan and provided vivid, first-hand descriptions of the shootings.

Bales' wife, Kari, has steadfastly supported her husband's innocence in the shootings.

At the conclusion of the evidentiary hearing, she issued a statement saying, "We all grieve deeply for the Afghan families who lost their loved ones on March 11, but we must all not rush to judgment."

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