A judge found accused Jan. 8 shooter Jared Lee Loughner competent in a hearing Tuesday, allowing him to plead guilty to 19 federal counts.
Loughner, who has been diagnosed as schizophrenic, stood before U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns in a Tucson courtroom on Aug. 7.
After listening to Loughner, Burns said, “There leaves no question in my mind he understans what’s going on today.”
This plea came in a compromise, dropping the number of charges from 49 to 19. In Tuesday’s hearing, Loughner admitted to killing six people, and injuring 13 others including former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and current Rep. Ron Barber, who was Giffords’ aide at the time.
Barber, along with many other victims, was in the courtroom when Loughner admitted to the shooting.
In a statement before the hearing, Giffords’ husband Mark Kelly said they support the plea agreement.
“Gabby and I have been in contact with the US Attorneys’ Office throughout this process,” Kelly said. “We don’t speak for all of the victims or their families, but Gabby and I are satisfied with this plea agreement. The pain and loss caused by the events of January 8, 2011 are incalculable. Avoiding a trial will allow us — and we hope the whole Southern Arizona community — to continue with our recovery and move forward with our lives.”
Loughner now faces seven life terms in the sentencing hearing set for Nov. 15. During the hearing, Loughner said he understands the charges against him.
According to U.S. Attorney John S. Leonardo, under the terms of the plea agreement, Loughner will be sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility for parole.
Leonardo said, “Given (Loughner’s) history of significant mental illness, the plea agreement, which requires the defendant to spend the remainder of his natural life in prison, with no possibility of parole, is a just and appropriate resolution of this case. I hope that today’s resolution of this case will help the victims, their families, and the entire Tucson community take another step forward in the process of healing and recovering from this sad and tragic event.”
Attorney General Eric Holder said this agreement was reached with the victims in mind.
“It is my hope that this decision will allow the Tucson community, and the nation, to continue the healing process free of what would likely be extended trial and pre-trial proceedings that would not have a certain outcome. The prosecutors and agents assigned to this matter have done an outstanding job and have ensured that justice has been done,” said Holder. “In making the determination not to seek the death penalty, I took into consideration the views of the victims and survivor families, the recommendations of the prosecutors assigned to the case, and the applicable law.”
According to the plea agreement, on Jan. 8, 2011 Loughner showed up at Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ “Congress on Your Corner” event outside the Safeway grocery store in Tucson on Ina Road armed with a loaded semi-automatic pistol and carrying three additional magazines containing 60 rounds of ammunition with the intent of killing Congresswoman Giffords and others attending her community event.
Shortly after arriving at the event that Saturday morning, Loughner shot Congresswoman Giffords in the head, and then shot several other people who were in attendance. As a result of the shooting, six individuals were killed and 13 people, including Congresswoman Giffords were injured, some seriously.
Through a plea agreement, Loughner pleaded guilty to 19 counts of:
The attempted assassination of U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle D. Giffords; The murders of federal employees U.S. District Court Chief Judge John M. Roll and Congressional Aide Gabriel M. Zimmerman;
The attempted murders of federal employees and Congressional Aides Ronald S. Barber and Pamela K. Simon;
Causing the deaths of Christina-Taylor Green, Dorothy J. Morris, Phyllis C. Schneck, and Dorwan C. Stoddard, all of whom were participants at an activity provided by the United States;
Injuring through the use of a Glock pistol Bill D. Badger, Kenneth W. Dorushka, James E. Fuller, Randy W. Gardner, Susan A. Hileman, George S. Morris, Mary C. Reed, Mavanell Stoddard, James L. Tucker, and Kenneth L. Veeder, Sr., all of whom were participants at an activity provided by the United States;
Loughner also admitted that in committing these offenses, he knowingly created a grave risk of death to Carol A. Dorushka, Robert C. Gawlick, Daniel Hernandez, Mark S. Kimble, Patricia R. Maisch, Emma E. McMahon, Owen A. McMahon, Thomas J. McMahon, Sara M. Rajca, Faith M. Salzgeber, Roger D. Salzgeber, Doris Tucker and Alexander J. Villec.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, Loughner will be sentenced to seven consecutive life sentences, followed by 140 years in prison, as follows:
Loughner will be sentenced to a term of life in prison for each of the following crimes:
The attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle D. Giffords; The murders of federal employees U.S. District Court Chief Judge John M. Roll and Congressional Aide Gabriel M. Zimmerman; and Causing the deaths of Christina-Taylor Green, Dorothy J. Morris, Phyllis C. Shneck, and Dorwan C. Stoddard, all of whom were participants at an activity provided by the United States.
Loughner will also be sentenced to the maximum term of 20 years in prison for each of the attempted murders of Congressional Aides Ronald S. Barber and Pamela K. Simon.
Finally, Loughner will be sentenced to the maximum term of 10 years in prison for injuring through the use of a Glock pistol each of the following:
Bill D. Badger, Kenneth W. Dorushka, James E. Fuller, Randy W. Gardner, Susan A. Hileman, George S. Morris, Mary C. Reed, Mavanell Stoddard, James L. Tucker, and Kenneth L. Veeder, Sr.
Convictions for the attempted assassination of a member of Congress, the murder of a federal employee, and causing the death of a participant in a federally-provided activity each carry a maximum sentence of life in prison (or death in the case of murder), a $250,000 fine or both. A conviction for the attempted murder of a federal employee carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both. A conviction for injuring a participant in a federally- provided activity carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both. In determining an actual sentence, U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns will consult the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide appropriate sentencing ranges. The judge, however, is not bound by those guidelines in determining a sentence.
Sentencing is set before Judge Burns on Nov. 15, at 10 a.m. in Tucson.