By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 26, 2012 – Criminal and administrative investigations continue following charges announced March 23 against Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the NATO International Security Assistance Force commander said here today.
Bales, who is being held at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., is charged with killing 17 Afghan civilians and trying to kill six others March 11.
U.S. officials have paid compensation to the victims’ families, Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen confirmed to reporters during a Pentagon news conference, noting that such payments are according to Afghan cultural norms.
“I extend once again my sincere condolences to the loved ones, family members and friends of those who were killed and injured in that senseless act of violence,” Allen said. “I also extend my deepest sympathies to the Bales family, who are going through a great deal right now. They, too, deserve our support as they come to grips with the inevitable and drastic changes … in their lives.”
Allen said because investigations continue and jurisdiction rests with officials at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., he could not to go into more detail about the case. He added that investigators “have and will retain my full support to let the facts take them where they may.”
Investigative and judicial processes will proceed according to military regulations, Allen said.
“Speculation in the media and through anonymous commentary serves no one's purpose in our interest and in our earnest desire to see justice done here,” he added.
The special court-martial convening authority at Joint Base Lewis-McChord must next decide whether to direct an investigation of the charges under Article 32 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. No case can proceed to a general court-martial unless a command first conducts an Article 32 investigation.
Under the UCMJ, the maximum possible punishment for a premeditated murder conviction is dishonorable discharge from the armed forces, reduction to the lowest enlisted grade, forfeiture of pay and allowances, and death. The minimum sentence is life imprisonment with eligibility for parole.