Lawyer for 'Barefoot Bandit' Will Represent Afghan Massacre Suspect

John Henry Browne will represent staff sgt. arrested for killing 16 civilians.

ByABC News
March 15, 2012, 6:14 PM

March 15, 2012 — -- A well-known Seattle defense attorney has agreed to represent the unidentified Army soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians this past weekend.

The office of attorney John Henry Browne confirmed to ABC News that Browne has agreed to represent the soldier, who is based at Joint Base Lewis McChord just outside of Tacoma, Wash.

Browne later discussed the case with reporters, describing his client as someone who has "been decorated many, many times. He's been to Iraq twice. He was injured twice and he was deployed back to Afghanistan. He is a career military man."

Browne later clarified that his client actually was deployed to Iraq three times.

Browne, who said he is being paid to represent the soldier, has represented various high-profile clients in the Seattle area, most recently Colton Harris-Moore, the thief and fugitive known by the moniker "the Barefoot Bandit" for committing some of his crimes barefoot.

Browne's newest client has not yet been charged with the shooting deaths of 16 civilians who lived in two villages near his base in rural Panjwai District of Kandahar Province in Southern Afghanistan.

His identity has not been made public by the Pentagon, though ABC News has learned that he is a 38-year-old staff sergeant and a married father of two serving his fourth overseas deployment. His deployment to Afghanistan this past December was his first after having served three previous combat deployments to Iraq.

Browne said the soldier did "blue collar" work in the Midwest before he enlisted. The soldier's wife had "a very good job."

He added that prior to the killings, members of the soldier's camp of about 20 soldiers were upset that one of them had been "gravely injured" the previous day.

Though he has had a personal conversation with his client, Browne said he doesn't know anything about his state of mind and, as he reads in on the case, he is "not aware of all the facts that are alleged."

Browne spoke with the soldier by phone early Thursday, according to Seattle media accounts, and he told the assembled reporters Thursday evening that he met with "a very large group of family members" on Wednesday.

Browne told the Associated Press that the soldier "wasn't thrilled about going on another deployment. ... He wasn't going back, and then he was told he was going."

On Wednesday, the soldier was flown out of Afghanistan to Kuwait where he is now being detained at a U.S. military detention facility.

Browne told reporters Thursday evening that if his client wasn't returned to the United States in the next couple of days, then either he or an associate would travel to Kuwait to meet with him.

He added that the soldier has two JAG lawyers -- one on site in Kuwait, and one in Washington, D.C.

ABC News has learned that shortly after the massacre suspect was detained for the shootings, he requested a lawyer and then did not volunteer much information. A military lawyer was assigned to him and represented him at a pre-trial confinement hearing on Tuesday. That hearing before a U.S. military magistrate in Afghanistan determined that there was probable cause to continue to detain the soldier.

The next step in the legal process will be the preferring of criminal charges against the soldier. Once those charges are presented the soldier's identity will be made public. Military service members have the option of including civilian attorneys to work with their military lawyers as their cases navigate through the military court system.

The soldier's family was immediately notified of his role in the shootings and was transferred from off-base housing to Joint Base Lewis McChord for their protection.

Browne told reporters it was unlikely the media would hear directly from the accused soldier soon.

"I've specifically asked him not to talk about anything about the case until I can sit down with him face-to-face," Browne said.

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