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NOTE: Reprinting text below as received from someone who served with the JAG Departments of the Air Force, Navy and Army.

In this Aug. 2011 photo, Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, right, participates in an exercise at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. The man at left is unidentified. Staff Sgt. Bales is charged with killing 16 Afghan villagers.
Spc. Ryan Hallock/DVIDS/AP

As you know I have about 30 years serving in the JAG Departments of the Navy, Air Force and Army.  That time leads me to raise red flags when I read or hear about a particular military criminal case.  Today, red flags arose while reading about SSGT Bales case.

As you know he is accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians to include children.  He went back to his base and turned himself into authorities.

There is some indication that he gave a verbal confession, but that confession does not appear to have been made after his Miranda warnings.  That does not bode well for him.  That said, there is no evidence at this time that he has been charged with an offense.  That begs the question as to why he is being transported and now in high security custody and Ft Leavenworth, KS.

My unresolved issues in my mind at this time is that a considerable number of days has transpired – approximately a week.  Why no charges?

Secondly, the military requires a pre-trial confinement hearing within (I believe 48 or perhaps 72 hours of arrest??). There is no report from the media that he was afforded that right.  Second, the purpose of a pre-trial confinement hearing is to determine if there is sufficient evidence to hold someone in confinement prior to trial.  Part of that consideration is flight risk and danger to himself of others.  Obviously, the crime itself would eventually justify pre-trial confinement on its own merits.  However, if no charges have been formally made that issue is mute.  So why is he at Fort Leavenworth?  Why is he not a Ft. Lewis, WA?

Has military defense counsel been appointed for him?  Even if he has a civilian attorney, a military defense counsel must also be appointed until such time as a military judge would rule to the contrary.  After a decade plus I am a little rusty on what would have been quick knowledge then.  That said, after we went through the LTC Lakin case and how it was handled, it leaves concern that  a similar situation may be brewing for SSGT Bales, he and us just don’t know it.

In a crime there must be jurisdiction over the offense and the offender.  That means that a commander over his direct chain of command would have to bring charges against him.  The question then is who is a jury of his peers?  Under normal situation it would be members of other units located on the same military installation of the accused.  In this case that would be Ft. Lewis not Ft. Leavenworth.  I believe that just like in a civilian case it would require a change of venue unless they are going to send a jury and local witnesses to Ft. Leavenworth for a trial.

Another issue (secondary) is that he and his wife live with their children in Lake Tapps, WA, a small community outside Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington, about 12 miles from my home.  I have access and use both installations being retired military.  The local paper is reported that the family disappeared from their home almost immediately upon learning of his apprehension.  It is believed and reported that they are in protective custody on the military installation.  I am guessing they are at the Ft. Lewis on post hotel as housing is so tight I doubt there is other family housing available.  I back that up in that it is reported that the kids toys are still on the front porch of the home.  I am also suspecting that this family will never have enough money to travel to Ft. Leavenworth to visit SSGT Bales.  In other words we appear to be more worried about the anger of Afghanies in the combat zone than the rights of the accused and his family.

I just believe there are a lot of unanswered questions and potential problems that need to be looked into and possibly raised via the media to try and protect SSgt Bales rights.  We know the Obama media is not going to do it.

Warmly,

Steve N.