Entries in Robert Bales (4)


Sgt. Robert Bales-PTSD Link at Odds With Research

US Army(NEW YORK) -- When Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales was arrested last week for allegedly killing 16 men, women and children in Kandahar, Afghanistan, speculation swirled that post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, had caused him to snap.

The disorder, which plagues thousands of soldiers and veterans returning from combat, triggers episodes of intense anxiety, anger and disturbing behavioral changes. Bales' lawyers, led by John Henry Browne of Seattle, have reportedly considered that Bales suffered from PTSD, in addition to his history with a traumatic brain injury.

In truth, however, there's no evidence to indicate that people afflicted with the condition are more likely than anyone else to commit crimes and acts of mass violence. They are more inclined, instead, to turn their aggression on themselves and their families to devastating effect, research shows.

The knee-jerk linking of Bales and PTSD also exposes troops to prejudice that might discourage them from seeking the treatment they so desperately need, advocates say.

Army Capt. Ross Maybee, 30, a West Point graduate now serving at Fort Hood in Texas, believes the automatic linking of Bales' alleged rampage and PTSD is unfair. Maybee was diagnosed with PTSD after four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan left him with severe panic attacks, difficulty concentrating and an inability to complete assignments for his job. He said he doesn't buy the notion that the disorder caused Bales to commit the alleged crime.

"I feel they're using it as an excuse for other underlying behavioral problems," Maybee said of the allegations. "People with PTSD rarely experience actual violent outbursts like that."

Travis Martin, 27, of Richmond, Ky., is familiar with the disorder's undercurrents of anger and aggression. He was diagnosed with PTSD after two tours as an Army sergeant in Iraq, and underwent treatment to keep his aggression, violent dreams and heavy drinking at bay. He said he can't discount that PTSD played a possible role in the Kandahar killings.

"But I don't know for certain that it's a result of one condition," Martin said of the allegations. "I don't know if we can ever really know just what went through his head."

When shocking crimes are connected with soldiers who have endured the strain of combat, PTSD is often an automatic diagnosis for people searching for an explanation. But experts and survivors dispute the notion that PTSD turns soldiers into ticking time bombs.

"I really hate that people are going to think that," Martin, who's no longer in the military, said.

PTSD affects about 8 percent of men and 20 percent of women who have experienced at least one traumatic event in their lives, according to the Veterans Administration. About 20 to 30 percent of the servicemen and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have the disorder. Nearly 100,000 of those veterans received treatment for PTSD at VA medical centers in 2011 alone.

There's no denying the troubling mental health consequences of PTSD and that it causes some sufferers to act out. Several studies have documented that people with PTSD are more likely to express anger and aggression, which for some turns into violence toward their partners, children or others.

Dr. Matthew Friedman, executive director of the National Center for PTSD in White River Junction, Vt., said it's a mistake to automatically attribute crimes like Bales' alleged killing spree to PTSD.

"I'm not saying that PTSD couldn't have been contributory, but the emphasis that PTSD and it alone can account for the event is just not borne out by the data," Friedman said.

Research suggests that people with PTSD are more likely to harm themselves. Soldiers and veterans have a much higher suicide rate than the general population, and the National Center for PTSD notes that studies have found that PTSD is strongly associated with suicidal thoughts or attempts, more so than other psychiatric conditions.

"Damage to individual veterans is so much greater than their damage to other people," said Dr. Joan Anzia, associate professor in psychiatry at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. "As tragic as those killings [in Afghanistan] are, those are few and far between compared to what our soldiers, veterans and their families suffer."

The effects of PTSD are widespread and often devastating for people who suffer. But the condition is vastly underreported in the military. Of the servicemen and women who return from war with PTSD, only about half receive any kind of treatment. Many fear that a diagnosis will damage their career prospects or relationships with their comrades.

Some advocates worry that characterizing people with PTSD as violent potential criminals might further stigmatize the disorder and prevent soldiers and veterans from seeking treatment.

"Creating a link without really knowing what causes a crime stigmatizes hundreds of thousands of people who have such a diagnosis who are contributing members to society and are no harm to anybody," said Dr. Israel Liberzon, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Capt. Maybee said he chose to speak candidly with his family and fellow soldiers to fight stereotypes about the condition. He hopes that others will not suffer from an association with rare cases of violent crimes.

"A handful of people make major news stories," Maybee said, "and you don't hear about that person who's suffering silently, abusing drugs and alcohol, or is confronting their issues and moving on with their lives."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Attorney for Afghan Murder Suspect Says Proving Guilt Will Be Difficult

US Army(FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan.) -- After meeting with Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales for a second day, attorney John Henry Browne suggested on Tuesday that the government will have a difficult time finding his client guilty of murdering 16 Afghan civilians 10 days ago.

"As far as we know there are no eyewitnesses.  As far as we know, the government hasn't been back to the scene of the alleged incident.  So there is no forensic evidence," Browne told ABC News.

"There's a lot of things missing that are usually not missing in a criminal case," he added.

Bales is waiting to be charged for the killings of the civilians a short distance away from his former base in southern Afghanistan.  He was brought to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., after U.S. military officials decided against having him tried in Afghanistan.

Browne was hired by Bales' family.  His wife, Karilyn Bales, said the murders were "completely out of character of the man I know and admire."

The attorney also rejected reports that Bales came back to his base and confessed to the slayings.

"That's not true either.  And as a matter of fact the government's paperwork that they filed doesn't have that in it at all.  I'm very suspicious of that report," Browne said.

He said Bales has a limited memory of what happened that night.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sergeant 'Does Not Remember Everything' From Afghan Massacre Night

US Army(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Staff Sgt. Robert Bales' lawyer, John Henry Browne, told ABC News that his client "does not remember everything from" the day when he allegedly slaughtered 16 Afghan civilians.

In an interview with CBS News, Browne said Bales has not confessed to the shootings and has large gaps in his memory from the night of March 11 when they occurred.

"He has an early memory of that evening. ... And he has a later memory of that evening but he does not have memory ... in between," Browne said.

In a statement Monday, Bales' wife, Karilyn, offered condolences from her family to the victims, many of whom were children.

"Our hearts go out too all of them, especially to the parents, brothers, sisters and grandparents of the children who perished," she said.


Karilyn Bales issued her statement as her husband met with his lawyer for the first time at the Fort Leavenworth military prison, and the U.S. military said that his trial will take place in the U.S., not Afghanistan.

But Mrs. Bales said she is mystified about what happened and how her husband, the father of their two children, could be accused of such an atrocity.

"Our family has little information beyond what we read and see in the media.  What has been reported is completely out of character of the man I know and admire.  Please respect me when I say I cannot shed any light on what happened that night... I too want to know what happened.  I want to know how this could be," she said.

Karilyn Bales alluded to efforts to protect her family and said, "The pain inevitably inflicted in war should never be an excuse to inflict yet more pain.  The cycle must be broken.  We must find peace."

She ended her statement saying, "The victims and their families are all in my prayers, as is my husband who I love very much."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Afghan Murder Suspect 'Took My Life Savings,' Says Retiree

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Robert Bales, the staff sergeant accused of massacring Afghan civilians, enlisted in the U.S. Army at the same time he was trying to avoid answering allegations he defrauded an elderly Ohio couple of their life savings in a stock fraud, according to federal documents reviewed by ABC News.

"He robbed me of my life savings," Gary Liebschner of Carroll, Ohio, told ABC News.

Financial regulators found that Bales "engaged in fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, churning, unauthorized trading and unsuitable investments," according to a report on Bales filed in 2003.  Bales and his associates were ordered to pay Liebschner $1,274,000 in compensatory and punitive damages but have yet to do so, according to Liebschner.

"We didn't know where he was," Liebschner told ABC News.  "We heard the Bahamas, and all kinds of places."

Liebschner says he recognized Bales after news reports named him as the American soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers in a shooting rampage.

Liebschner filed a complaint against Bales in May 2000, claiming Bales took his life savings of $852,000 in AT&T stock and through a series of trades reduced its value to nothing.

The Ohio retiree recalled Bales as a "smooth talker."  Asked if he regarded Bales as a con man, Liebschner said, "You've hit the nail on the head."

At the time, Bales worked for an Ohio brokerage firm, MPI.

According to federal documents, Bales failed to appear at an arbitration hearing to resolve Liebschner's complaint. 

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio