Lawyer: Afghanistan suspect was loath to deploy

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 recently represented a youthful thief known as the “Barefoot Bandit,” 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.

“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.

Some reports have indicated 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.

Browne recently represented Colton Harris-Moore, who gained international attention for stealing airplanes, boats and cars during a two-year run from the law, but Browne said he has only handled three or four military cases before. The soldier will also have at least one military lawyer.

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 soldier deployed 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.

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