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Brother testifies for defense in Afghan massacre

JOINT BASE LEWISMCCHORD, Wash. — A brother of the US soldier who slaughtered 16 Afghan civilians last year began making the case Wednesday for why the soldier should one day be eligible for parole, portraying him as a patriotic American and indulgent father.

‘‘There’s no better father that I’ve seen,’’ William Bales said of his younger brother, Staff Sergeant Robert Bales. ‘‘If you brought the kids in here today, they’d run right to him.’’

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Bales pleaded guilty in June in a deal to avoid the death penalty, acknowledging that he slaughtered 16 people — mostly women and children — during unsanctioned, solo, pre-dawn raids on two villages on March 11, 2012. A jury is deciding whether he should be sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole, or without it.

The picture painted by the first defense witness, William Bales , severely contradicted that portrayed by the soldier’s admissions as well as by the testimony of nine Afghan villagers — victims and their relatives — about the horror Bales wrought.

Defense attorneys hope the contrast will convince jurors that Bales simply snapped after four combat deployments and deserves leniency.

William Bales described how the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, changed ‘‘good-time Bobby’’ and how he soon after enlisted in the Army.

Prosecutors noted, however, that Bales was also facing a fraud lawsuit when he enlisted.

One of Bales’s lawyers, John Henry Browne, said after court Wednesday that his client will speak to the jury at the end of the case, and he will offer an apology for his crimes.

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