Legal defense fund set up by wife of Staff Sgt. Bales in Afghan massacre

Bales
By Michael Martinez and Miguel Marquez

(CNN) – A legal defense fund for Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, charged with 17 murders in a shooting rampage in an Afghan village, has been established, his wife said Saturday.

With the support of Bales’ extended family, wife Kari formed The Staff Sergeant Robert Bales Legal Defense Fund, she said in a statement Saturday.

Regarding the alleged March 11 massacre in Afghanistan, Kari Bales said she “has no more information about what happened other than what the government and media have released.”

She said she “cannot even come close to covering the legal costs and fees that will accrue.”

“Contributions to the defense fund are welcome only from donors who (1.) grieve with Mrs. Bales over the lives that were lost that night, and (2.) believe that in America everyone is entitled to a fair trial. Over time, the truth will come out. That’s why we have due process under the laws of our country. Unfortunately, due process is very expensive,” Kari Bales’ statement said.

Contributions to the defense fund, at P.O. Box 2774, Seattle, Washington, 98111, aren’t tax deductible, she said.

In addition to the 17 charges of murder “with premeditation,” 38-year-old Staff Sgt. Bales faces six counts of attempted murder and two counts of assault.

Authorities say Bales left a remote outpost in Kandahar province’s Panjwai district early March 11 and went house-to-house, gunning down villagers.

U.S. and Afghan officials initially said 16 people died in those attacks.

Col. Gary Kolb, a spokesman with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, on Friday said only that investigators assigned to the case felt they had evidence to charge Bales with 17 counts of murder. There was no immediate indication as to where the other fatality came from, besides the fact it was an adult, and Afghan government officials in Kabul have said they have no record of another death.

The six people wounded in the shootings are four children, one woman and one man, according to the charge sheet against Bales. Two of those have been released from a hospital, said Ahmad Javed Faisal, a Kandahar provincial government spokesman.

At the minimum, Bales would be sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole if he’s convicted on even one of the 17 murder charges, according to a statement from the U.S. Forces-Afghanistan public affairs office.

At the maximum, he could face the death penalty.

The Taliban, in an e-mail Friday to CNN, vowed “strong revenge” for the attacks and claimed justice won’t be served in U.S. courts, which they said “are not reliable.” The Islamic fundamentalist group, which been battling coalition and Afghan government forces for years, believes that “tens of American soldiers, and not one person” are responsible for the killings, according to the message.

“We don’t believe in these (American) courts and reject the decision,” the Taliban said. “We will take practical revenge on every single American soldier.”

Bales, who was returned to the United States last week, is being held at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

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