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TODAY   |  June 05, 2013

Soldier to plead guilty of killing Afghan civilians

Army staff sergeant Robert Bales will go before a military judge today to plead guilty to the worst massacre of civilians – 16 dead, mostly women and children – in the 12 years of the war in Afghanistan. NBC’s Mike Taibbi reports.

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>>> deal for a soldier accused of a massacre in afghanistan.

>> good morning, everyone. that's right that, army staff sergeant accused of killing 16 afghan villagers is expected to plead guilty today when he appears before a military judge. nbc's mike taibbi is outside the base in seattle. good morning.

>> reporter: this plea deal is controversial in afghanistan, there's already talk of reprisals. prosecutors said they will seek a sentence of life in prison for bales without the possibility of parole. 39-year-old staff sergeant robert bales has never denied that he alone carried out two separate nighttime rampages in kandahar province last march opening a fire on sleeping civilians, most of them women and children , killing 16 and wounding six others. his lawyer says bales is thankful the plea deal will spare his life and that he has another motive or admitting to everything.

>> he thinks it will be better to have closure for his family, for the military, for our government, for the afghan government , for the afghan people .

>> reporter: but the plea deal isn't a lock. the judge will likely spend hours questioning bales on every detail of the allegations against him, a potential tripping point, according to former j.a.g. lawyer, charlie swift.

>> what could undo the entire deal if the judge says no.

>> reporter: when the story broke it strained belief that a lone soldier in a remote outpost fueled by alcohol, steroids and sleep aids could carry out two separate murderous rampages. his wife told matt it couldn't be her husband, the father of their two children.

>> it's unbelievable to me. he loves children and he would not do that.

>> reporter: but he did, and will say in court that he did, not blaming ptsd or drugs or alcohol or four deployments and accept fexcept for his final sentence his case could be over.

>> to say he remembers everything is a stretch. does he enough to admit guilt to each one of these allegations, yes.

>> reporter: at the sentencing trial scheduled for august bales will look for the possibility of parole after only ten years but even his lawyer says that is not likely.

>> nbc's mike taibbi , thank you, mike.