Robert Bales: 2002 assault case involved casino guard

Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, arrested this month on suspicion of killing 16 Afghan civilians, nine of them children, was prosecuted 10 years ago for assaulting a security guard at a Tacoma, Wash., casino, according to recently obtained court records.

The charges, filed in local court there, were dismissed after Bales attended 20 hours of anger management courses.

Bales' Seattle-based lawyer in the Afghanistan case, John Henry Browne, has said that the assault -- which occurred before Bales was married -- arose out of a disagreement with a woman.

But records from Tacoma Municipal Court show that Bales was charged with “criminal assault” for “intentionally” harming the guard, identified as Joe G. Hanna, at the Silver Dollar Casino.

The incident occurred about 1 a.m. on July 14, 2002, when Bales, drinking at the casino bar, threatened another customer. Asked to leave, Bales refused. Escorted outside, he attacked the guard with a garbage can lid and struck him in the chest with his fist, records show.

At the time, Bales was assigned to the Ft. Lewis Army base, which later became Joint Base Lewis-McChord, outside Tacoma.

He represented himself against the misdemeanor charge, eventually paying a $300 fine and agreeing to undergo anger management training. Court records apparently in Bales’ handwriting suggest he completed the course.

Hanna did not return phone calls for comment; he has told local reporters he does not recall the incident.

Bales was 28 at the time and weighed 230 pounds. A year and a half later, he left on his first of four deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.


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