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Loughner Faces Life Term for Killing 6, Wounding Giffords

Nov. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Jared Lee Loughner was ordered to spend the rest of his life in prison after pleading guilty to killing six people and attempting to assassinate U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords at a constituent gathering last year in Tucson, Arizona.

Loughner, 24, wearing a brown dress shirt and khaki pants, sat with his arms folded and was expressionless as he was sentenced yesterday in federal court in Tucson. Under the terms of his Aug. 7 plea agreement, he was given seven consecutive life sentences for the attempted assassination of Giffords, the first-degree murder of a federal judge and one of Giffords’s aides, and the slaying of four participants at Giffords’s “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, Giffords’s aide, or the four other people, including a 9-year-old girl. Prosecutors said they wouldn’t seek restitution because victims said they didn’t want any.

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.

Gun Laws

Mark Kelly, her husband, in court criticized politicians for failing to protect citizens with gun-control laws.

“As a nation, we’ve repeatedly passed up the opportunities to address the issue,” Kelly, a retired astronaut, said, citing other shooting massacres at Columbine High School and a movie theater in Aurora, both in Colorado. “In this state we elect officials so feckless, like Governor Jan Brewer.”

“Our state legislature busies itself naming an official Arizona state gun just weeks after, instead of doing its job,” he said.

Kelly spoke to Loughner, too.

“You may have put a bullet in her head, but you haven’t put a dent in her spirit and commitment to make this world a better place,” Kelly said of Giffords, who stood by his side as he spoke. “You have decades upon decades to contemplate your crime. After today, after this moment, Gabby and I are done thinking about you.”

Giffords didn’t speak, but kissed her husband after he spoke.

Supported Agreement

Most of the victims who spoke in court addressed Loughner directly.

Patricia Maisch, one of the victims who took the gun from Loughner, said she opposed the death penalty and supported the plea agreement for life in prison. She said she wants him to get treatment so that he will always remember his “horrific crime.”

Suzi Hileman, who was shot while she tried to shield Christina-Taylor Green, the 9-year-old, was visibly angry. She told Loughner that he turned a “civics lesson into a nightmare.”

She said that although society “failed” Loughner, “that’s not enough. There’s still the pesky fact you pointed a weapon and shot it three times.”

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.

‘Determination, Compassion’

“While her work as a member of Congress was disrupted, you did not take away her determination and compassion, nor her desire to serve,” Barber said to Loughner in court. “Her recovery is an inspiration to the entire country.”

“This tragedy of brutal violence you inflicted does not define us as individuals nor as a community. This tragedy has shown us so much what it means to help support each other and focus on improving our community.”

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.

“Today’s sentence insures that Mr. Loughner will spend the rest of his life in prison and will never be in a position to harm others again,” Leonardo said in a statement yesterday.

Plea Agreement

Loughner said in his plea agreement that he went to the constituent event in January 2011 armed with a Glock model 19, 9 mm semi-automatic pistol, loaded with 33 rounds of ammunition, and three additional magazines containing an additional 60 rounds of ammunition.

“Prior to arriving, I had formed a plan to kill Congresswoman Giffords and the people who were at Congress on Your Corner,” he said in the plea.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns, who imposed the sentence with a condition of no possibility of parole, recommended that Loughner be held at a federal prison hospital in Springfield, Missouri, and receive medical care. Loughner waived his right to appeal under the plea agreement.

Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall in Tucson said yesterday that state prosecutors won’t pursue charges against Loughner.

LaWall said at a press conference that Loughner’s federal guilty plea means “the public is going to be safe, the individuals are going to be safe” because he will never leave federal prison. She also said her office considered the input of all of the victims and survivors, which factored heavily in her decision not to seek state charges.

The case is U.S. v. Loughner, 11-00187, U.S. District Court, District of Arizona (Tucson).

To contact the reporters on this story: Edvard Pettersson in Los Angeles at epettersson@bloomberg.net; A.J. Flick in federal court in Tuscon, Arizona, at ajflick@hotmail.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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