Afghan Civilian Killings

AP Photo/DVIDS, Spc. Ryan Hallock

A military judge says a team of Army prosecutors can remain on the case of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales for his sentencing next week, even after they read documents they weren't supposed to.

Bales pleaded guilty to killing 16 Afghan civilians during nighttime raids last year.

The top forces commander at Washington’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord has decided to seek the death penalty against Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. He’s the 39-year old soldier accused of murdering 16 Afghan civilians earlier this year.

Bales is accused of conducting two predawn raids on villages in southern Afghanistan. The victims were mostly women and children and the Army says some of the bodies were burned. Prosecutors had asked for a death penalty trial and top commanders at Lewis-McChord agreed.

ABOARD A US MILITARY AIRCRAFT — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the death penalty is a consideration as the military moves to investigate and possibly put on trial a U.S. soldier suspected of gunning down 16 Afghans.

The U.S. soldier suspected of gunning down at least 16 Afghan civilians was from a Washington state-based Stryker brigade and received his assignment to a village stability program less than six weeks ago.

The judge in a high profile war crimes court martial is expected to send the case to the jury today. Closing arguments are now complete in the case against Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs. He's accused of orchestrating the deaths of unarmed Afghan civilians.

Army prosecutor Major Robert Snow told the military jury their decision should not be difficult. His precise closing words: "Let your verdict speak the truth that Staff Sgt. Gibbs is a murderer."

AP

The lawyer for one of five Washington state soldiers charged with killing Afghan civilians for sport says his client is being released from custody pending his court martial.

Attorney Colby Vokey tells The News Tribune of Tacoma that an Army judge on Friday agreed to release Spc. Michael Wagnon, originally from Las Vegas. The other four defendants remain in custody.

Ted S. Warren / AP

A German news publication says it’s obtained a copy of a secret Army investigation into leadership problems within the 5th Stryker Brigade. One soldier from this Joint Base Lewis-McChord based unit has pleaded guilty. Four others are charged with war crimes including the murder of innocent Afghan civilians. 

Rolling Stone magazine has published several more grisly photographs related to the war crimes case unfolding at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

The release comes just one week after a German magazine was the first to publish photos. The Army had sought to keep the pictures under wraps for fear they could trigger a backlash against U.S. troops.

Last week’s photographs showed soldiers posing with a dead Afghan named Gul Mudin. Rolling Stone now reports he was an unarmed 15-year old boy, the first of three victims allegedly killed by members of a rogue platoon from Western Washington.

Gary Davis / KPLU

Good morning. Will it be as sunny as Wednesday? No, but we will see occasional sun breaks along with clouds and showers around western Washington today, according to the National Weather Service. 

Making headlines this morning:

  • Guilty Plea in Afghan Civilian Murders
  • Seattle Pays Out Millions in Madison Valley Flood Suit
  • New Plan Could Keep State History Museums Open

 

Morlock Pleads Guilty to Murder

Army Spc. Jeremy Morlock pleaded guilty to three counts of murder of unarmed Afghan civilians, admitting the motive in the deaths was "...to kill people."  Morlock's plea came at a Joint Base Lewis-McChord court martial hearing Wednesday, a process followed closely by KPLU's Austin Jenkins.

Morlock will be a key witness in hearings of four Stryker Brigade platoon mates who are also charged in the deaths, reports The News Tribune's Adam Ashton: 

Morlock will be a key witness against Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, who allegedly plotted to murder Afghan civilians and brought his comrades along with him. Gibbs denies the charges and is expected to face a court-martial in June.

The war crimes are the subject of international attention, with photographs of soldiers posing with corpses published online this past week by Germany's Der Spiegel.

Austin Jenkins / N3

A Washington-based soldier has been sentenced to 24-years in prison for killing unarmed civilians in Afghanistan. Specialist Jeremy Morlock pleaded guilty to three counts of premeditated murder and other crimes.

AP

Making headlines around the Northwest this morning:

  • Push to Preserve Iconic Seattle PI Globe
  • Warnings of Phone Scams
  • Plea Deal for JBLM Soldier Likely for Afghan War Crimes

 

It's About the PI

Some Seattle City Council members are concerned the iconic globe atop the seattlepi.com offices on the city's central waterfront may go away if it's not protected. They're considering landmark status for neon-lighted orb that has been spinning for 63 years. It has survived the company's shift from daily newspaper to a smaller, online-only venture.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Happy Spring!  We'll see periods of sunshine and some rain showers today.

Making headlines around the Northwest this morning:

  • First Flight for 747-8 
  • Afghan War Crimes Photos Released
  • Libyan-Americans Monitor Conflict

 

Sunday for Boeing: "Absolutely Gorgeous"

Making headlines this morning around the Northwest:

  • Another Prosecution in Afghan War Crimes
  • Local Reaction to Health Bill Ruling
  • Seattle Schools Audit: Rules Not Followed

 

Army To Prosecute Fifth Stryker Soldier

The Army will prosecute Spc. Michael Wagnon, the fifth Stryker Brigade soldier from Joint Base Lewis-McChord accused of war crimes against Afghan civilians. The News Tribune's Adam Ashton reports Wagnon is accused of a variety of crimes, including murder, conspiracy and drug use:

US Army

There's been a significant development in the case of five Washington-based soldiers accused of killing unarmed Afghan civilians last year. The Washington Post reports a plea deal has been struck with one of the key defendants. But an Army spokesman cautions nothing's been finalized. 

The Post, citing an anonymous source, says Specialist Jeremy Morlock has agreed to a deal that would spare him the possibility of life in prison.

A pre-trial hearing is scheduled to continue Tuesday morning for one of the five Washington-based Army soldiers charged with war crimes while deployed to Afghanistan. 

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