NORMAN — JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. — A brother of the U.S. soldier who slaughtered 16 Afghan civilians last year began making the case Wednesday for why he should one day be eligible for release from prison, portraying him as a patriotic American and indulgent father who let his son put ranch dressing on chocolate chip pancakes.
“There’s no better father that I’ve seen,” William Bales said of his younger brother, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. “If you brought the kids in here today, they’d run right to him.”
Sgt. Bales, 39, pleaded guilty in June in a deal to avoid the death penalty, acknowledging that he slaughtered 16 people, mostly women and children, during unsanctioned, solo, pre-dawn raids on two villages March 11, 2012. A jury is deciding whether he should be sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole, or without it.
The picture painted by the first defense witness, William Bales, 55, severely contrasted with that portrayed by the soldier’s admissions as well as by the testimony of nine Afghan villagers — victims and their relatives — about the horror Bales wrought.
William Bales repeatedly referred to his sibling — once the captain of his high school football team and class president in Norwood, Ohio, where they grew up — as “my baby brother” and “Bobby.”
He described how as a teenager his brother cared for a developmentally disabled neighborhood boy, assisting him with basic life functions. The boy’s father also testified how helpful Bales was.
“I don’t know too many 16-, 17-year-old boys who could do that,” William Bales said.
He also described how the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, changed “good-time Bobby” and how he soon thereafter enlisted in the Army.
Prosecutors noted, however, that Bales was also facing a fraud lawsuit when he enlisted. An arbitrator eventually imposed a $1.5 million judgment against Bales and his former stockbroking company.