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Use Of Malaria Drug To Be Raised In Soldier’s Hearing Over Killing Of 16 Afghans
The defense team for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, in a hearing scheduled for Tuesday, plans to raise possible use of a controversial malaria drug as justification for a review of the life-without-parole sentence he received for the murder of 16 Afghans.
The U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals hearing in Northern Virginia comes four years after Bales was sentenced at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Western Washington for one of the most notorious U.S. war crimes of recent decades. Early on March 12, 2012, he twice left a small base in southern Afghanistan to kill men, women and children in two Kandahar province villages.
Defense attorneys are expected to argue that while on a 2003-2004 tour in Iraq, and possibly in Afghanistan in 2012, Bales took the anti-malarial drug mefloquine, according to John Henry Browne, a Seattle attorney who has assisted in the soldier’s defense.
In July 2013, the FDA issued its strictest warning about mefloquine, noting the potential for long-term neurological damage and serious psychiatric side effects. The defense team did not raise Bales’ possible use of the drug during sentencing proceedings the next month.
Staff Sgt. Robert Bales pictured at the National Training Center at Ft. Irwin, California, August 23, 2011.Lauren Katzenberg
Defense attorneys now hope the drug issue can persuade a three-judge panel to lessen his sentence. But Bales has never recalled just what malaria medications he took, according to Browne.
A retired Army officer who headed up the prosecution team said he never saw any documentation in Bales’ medical records that he took mefloquine in Iraq or Afghanistan.
“There is zero evidence that Bales was on mefloquine,” said retired Lt. Col. Jay Morse, who is now in private practice but plans to attend Tuesday’s hearing as an observer.
Appeals are automatic for Army criminal convictions. The three-judge panel has wide-ranging powers to adjust a sentence, or even throw one out.
Bales’ hearing will be held at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
Defense attorneys have raised another issue in the appeal that involves Afghan witnesses, who flew to the United States to testify against Bales at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Bales’ lawyers allege that some of those witnesses’ ties to bomb-making were not disclosed, according to Browne.
Bales, 44, was raised in Ohio, and deployed three times to Iraq, then to Afghanistan during more than a decade of Army service at what is now Joint Base Lewis-McChord. His last tour of duty ended as he was taken into custody — wearing a blanket wrapped cape-like around his neck and clad in bloodstained pants — on the morning he carried out the village attacks.
Pretrial hearings in 2012 featured emotional video testimony from Afghan survivors of the attacks.
In June 2013, Bales pleaded guilty to murder in exchange for the withdrawal of the death penalty.
The next month, The Seattle Times and other publications reported the possibility that Bales might have used mefloquine — information that was based on an FDA “adverse event” notification from an anonymous pharmacist. That report was submitted in 2012 and released by the agency in 2013. It stated that on an unknown date, an anonymous Army patient received the drug — when his health condition contradicted its use — and that he went on to kill 17 Afghans (the initial number of deaths Bales was charged with by the Army.)
But Morse said in an interview Thursday that document was not considered to be evidence of Bales’ use of the drug, and that Browne failed — when ordered by the military court — to offer any other documentation of Bales’ use of the drug. Prosecutors then were able to gain a ruling from the judge that prohibited mefloquine from being brought up during an August hearing that ended in Bales receiving the life sentence.
Later, in an unsuccessful bid for clemency, Bales did not mention possible use of mefloquine. He did cite post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, combat stresses as well as alcohol, sleeping pills and steroids that he took while deployed as possible factors.
“I have come to understand that there isn’t a why, there is only pain,” he wrote from prison in his clemency document.
©2017 The Seattle Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
The DNA of a niece and nephew, who never met their uncle, has helped identify the remains of the Kansas Marine who died in WWII.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced that 21-year-old U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Pfc. Raymond Warren was identified using DNA and circumstantial evidence. Warren had been buried in a cemetery in the Gilbert Islands, where he was killed when U.S. forces tried to take secure one of the islands from the Japanese.
The Battle of Tarawa lasted from Nov. 20 to Nov. 23, 1943, and claimed the lives of 1,021 U.S. marines and sailors, more than 3,000 Japanese soldiers and an estimated 1,000 Korean laborers before the U.S. troops seized control, the agency said.
Arizona lawmakers are vowing to fight a plan by the Air Force to start retiring some of the nation's fleet of A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack jets — a major operation at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base — as part of a plan to drop some older, legacy weapon systems to help pay for new programs.
U.S. Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., a former A-10 pilot, and U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., both vowed to fight the move to retire 44 of the oldest A-10s starting this year.
During a press briefing last week, Air Force officials unveiled plans to start mothballing several older platforms, including retiring some A-10s even as it refits others with new wings.
MOSCOW/SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea, whose leader Kim Jong Un was filmed riding through the snow on a white stallion last year, has spent tens of thousands of dollars on 12 purebred horses from Russia, according to Russian customs data.
Accompanied by senior North Korean figures, Kim took two well-publicized rides on the snowy slopes of the sacred Paektu Mountain in October and December.
State media heralded the jaunts as important displays of strength in the face of international pressure and the photos of Kim astride a galloping white steed were seen around the world.
North Korea has a long history of buying pricey horses from Russia and customs data first reported by Seoul-based NK News suggests that North Korea may have bolstered its herd in October.
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A high-profile local Taliban figure who announced and justified the 2012 attack on teenage Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai has escaped detention, Pakistan's interior minister confirmed a few days after the militant announced his breakout on social media.
Former Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, who claimed responsibility on behalf of his group for scores of Taliban attacks, proclaimed his escape on Twitter and then in an audio message sent to Pakistani media earlier this month.
The Pakistani military, which had kept Ehsan in detention for three years, has declined to comment but, asked by reporters about the report, Interior Minister Ijaz Shah, said: "That is correct, that is correct."
Shah, a retired brigadier general, added that "you will hear good news" in response to questions about whether there had been progress in hunting down Ehsan.
The 7-day "reduction in violence" negotiated between the United States and the Taliban is set to begin on Feb. 22, an Afghan government official who spoke on condition of anonymity told Task & Purpose on Monday.
A temporary truce beginning on Saturday that would last for one week is seen as a crucial test between the Taliban, U.S., and Afghan governments that would prove all parties to a potential peace deal can control their forces. Defense Secretary Mark Esper declined to confirm the date on Sunday.
"That is a moving date because we are still doing consultations, if you will," Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters.