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Seattle lawyer: Soldier accused in Afghanistan shooting was reluctant to go on 4th deployment
SEATTLE (AP) ' The U.S. soldier accused of slaughtering 16 Afghan civilians last weekend had twice been injured during tours in Iraq and was reluctant to leave on his fourth deployment, a Seattle lawyer said Thursday.
"He wasn't thrilled about going on another deployment," said the lawyer, John Henry Browne. "He was told he wasn't going back, and then he was told he was going."
Browne, a well-known Seattle defense attorney who once represented serial killer Ted Bundy, said he has been asked to represent the soldier, a 38-year-old staff sergeant from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Tacoma.
The soldier is from the Seattle area and asked to be represented by Browne when he was taken into custody, the lawyer said. Browne said he has met with the staff sergeant's family, and unless the soldier is returned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord in the next few days, he will travel to meet the soldier wherever he is in custody.
Browne declined to release the soldier's name, which the Army has withheld, but said he has two young children, ages 3 and 4.
"Everybody is worried about the safety of his family, and I am honoring that," Browne said.
Browne said he has a limited amount of information about his prospective client. He described the soldier as highly decorated and said he had twice been injured during deployments to Iraq, once suffering a concussive head injury and once a serious leg injury. Browne said the soldier is from the Midwest, but would not be more specific.
Some reports have indicated that alcohol may have been a factor in the shootings. Browne said that as far as the soldier's family knew, he did not have a drinking problem. He also said reports that there may have been marital problems were not correct.
"They've got a fabulous marriage," Browne said.
The soldier is suspected of going on a shooting rampage in villages near his base in southern Afghanistan early Sunday, killing nine children and seven other civilians and then burning some of their bodies. The shooting, which followed a controversial Quran-burning incident involving U.S. soldiers, has outraged Afghan officials.
The suspect was flown out of Afghanistan on Wednesday evening to what officials describe as a pretrial confinement facility in Kuwait. Officials have anonymously described him as a father of two who has been in the military for 11 years. He has served three tours in Iraq and began his first deployment to Afghanistan in December.
A congressional source, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the information, told The Associated Press that he was with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team before being assigned to a village stability operation near the villages where the attack took place.
Browne recently represented Colton Harris-Moore, a youthful thief known as the "Barefoot Bandit" who gained international attention for stealing airplanes, boats and cars during a two-year run from the law. Browne and his co-counsel, Emma Scanlan, helped Harris-Moore reach state and federal plea deals, then persuaded a state judge to give him the low end of the sentencing range: seven years in prison.
Browne said he has only handled three or four military cases before. The soldier will also have at least one military lawyer.
Gene Johnson can be reached at https://twitter.com/GeneAPseattle