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U.S. soldier gets life in prison, pleaded guilty to killing 16 Afghans

Armed ConflictsRobert BalesUnrest, Conflicts and WarJustice SystemCrime, Law and JusticeTwitter, Inc.

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. -- A military jury Friday sentenced Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who pleaded guilty to killing 16 Afghan civilians, to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Bales, 40, entered the guilty plea last June in a deal to avoid the death penalty.

During his court-martial here Thursday, Bales had apologized for his actions but did not offer an explanation for the violence. He described the killings as an “act of cowardice, behind a mask of fear, bulls -- and bravado.”

“I'm truly, truly sorry to those people whose families got taken away,” the father of two said. “I can't comprehend their loss. I think about it every time I look at my kids.”

The six-member military jury deliberated about two hours Friday morning following closing arguments. As a result of Bales' guilty plea, jurors were only deciding whether he would be eligible for parole.

During the proceeding, his defense sought to humanize him as a dependable and upstanding man -- a good father, a good soldier, a good friend -- who had been tormented by war.

Noting his use of steroids and alcohol, prosecutors countered that Bales has a troubled history with his marriage, finances and authority figures. They also focused on the toll the rampage took on the families he attacked and on the military's relationships in Afghanistan.

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