Jared Lee Loughner is set to be sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to attempting last year to assassinate U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords as well as to killing six people in Tucson, Arizona.
Loughner, 24, is scheduled to be sentenced today in federal court in Tucson. Under the terms of his Aug. 7 plea agreement, he faces seven consecutive life sentences for the attempted assassination of Giffords, the first-degree murder of a federal judge and one of Gifford’s aides, and the slaying of four participants at Giffords’ “Congress on Your Corner” event for constituents on Jan. 8, 2011.
The government agreed not to seek the death penalty for the murders of U.S. District Judge John M. Roll and Gabriel Zimmerman, Gifford’s aide, or the four other people, including a nine-year-old girl.
Giffords, 42, survived the shooting rampage outside a Safeway grocery store, where Loughner shot her through the head from point-blank range. Giffords, a Democrat, resigned from Congress in January to focus on her recovery. She had won a third term in 2010.
“I was armed with a Glock model 19, 9 mm semi-automatic pistol, loaded with 33 rounds of ammunition, and 3 additional magazines containing an additional 60 rounds of ammunition,” Loughner said in his plea agreement. “Prior to arriving, I had formed a plan to kill Congresswoman Giffords and the people who were at Congress on Your Corner.”
Loughner faces an additional 140 years in prison under his plea deal for the attempted murder of two of Giffords’s other aides, including Ron Barber, who in June won a special election to fill the remainder of Giffords’s term, and for wounding 10 other participants at the meeting.
It was “clear” Loughner was mentally ill and not diagnosed before the shootings, U.S. Attorney John Leonardo in Phoenix said after the Aug. 7 hearing where Loughner pleaded guilty. The decision not to seek the death penalty was a “certain and just resolution to the case,” he said.
Loughner had been medicated with antipsychotic drugs and confined to a federal prison hospital in Springfield, Missouri, after U.S. District Judge Larry Burns found him not competent to stand trial last year. Burns approved the drugging over the objections of Loughner’s lawyer.
The judge ruled in August that Loughner, who prison psychologists diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia, was mentally competent and accepted his plea.
Christina Pietz, a Bureau of Prisons psychologist who has treated him, testified that as time went on and Loughner took prescribed medication voluntarily, the seriousness of the shooting dawned on him.
“I did especially cry about the child,” Loughner told Pietz once, referring to 9-year-old victim Christina-Taylor Green.
In the months before the shooting, Loughner had posted videos on MySpace and YouTube that prosecutors last year said showed he may have had mental issues, including a seven-minute clip of a hooded and masked person that prosecutors believed to be him wearing garbage bags on his lower body and burning an American flag.
E-mails from Tucson-based Pima Community College, which expelled Loughner in September 2010, revealed campus police reports and exchanges between administrators about his increasingly erratic behavior in classrooms, including “creepy stares” and challenges to teachers, saying that he had a right to earn an “A” “regardless of what answers he gives because of free speech.”
The case is U.S. v. Loughner, 11-00187, U.S. District Court, District of Arizona (Tucson).