Lawyer: Soldier accused in Afghan massacre upset about 4th deployment

Seattle attorney John Henry Browne talking to reporters Thursday.

The U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians was unhappy about his fourth combat deployment, but had never said anything antagonistic about Muslims to members of his family and wasn't under stress from his marriage, his Seattle lawyer said Thursday.

Attorney John Henry Browne, who represented Washington's Colton Harris-Moore, known as the Barefoot Bandit, in his burglary and theft cases, announced Thursday that he had been hired to be the Army staff sergeant's lawyer in the Afghan massacre case.

The 38-year-old soldier was in U.S. military custody in Kuwait, while his wife and two children have been moved onto Joint Base Lewis-McChord for their protection. The soldier's home base is JBLM.

The New York Times reported that U.S. military officials were preparing to move the soldier to the United States as early as Friday, most likely to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, and that his name might be released at that time.

At a news conference in Seattle Thursday, Browne said he spoke by phone only briefly with the soldier in Kuwait. But Browne said he spoke more extensively with the soldier's wife and her parents.

The lawyer said his client was not happy about his fourth combat deployment, after three tours in Iraq. He had been injured twice in Iraq -- a head injury from a non-combat vehicle accident and a serious foot injury, Browne said.

"He was told he was not going to be redeployed, and the family was counting on him not to be redeployed, so his family was told his tours were over. And literally overnight that changed," Browne said. "He and the family were not happy that he was going back."

The New York Times, citing a senior American official, said Thursday that the soldier had been drinking alcohol the night of the shootings and was suffering from the stress of a fourth combat tour and tension with his wife.

“When it all comes out, it will be a combination of stress, alcohol and domestic issues — he just snapped,” the official said, according to the Times.

Asked about the New York Times report concerning marital stress, Browne replied, "Nonsense."

"I would like to put to rest ... there is some sort of suggestion that there was discord in the family ... that's absolutely untrue. It's a very strong marriage, there's a lot of love, a lot of respect," Browne said.

The lawyer added that the soldier has "never said anything antagonistic about Muslims and Mideast individuals. In general, he's been very mild-mannered; they (the family members) are very shocked by this," Browne said.

He also disclosed that there was an injury that occurred the day before the massacre.

"We have been informed that at this small base he was at, somebody was gravely injured the day before the alleged incident," Browne said, adding that it "affected all of the soldiers."