Loughner Gets Life Sentence For Arizona Shooting Rampage

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TUCSON, Ariz.
(AP) — The man who pleaded guilty to a deadly Arizona shooting rampage
that wounded former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was sentenced to life
in prison Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Larry
Burns sentenced 24-year-old Jared Lee Loughner for the January 2011
attack that left six people dead and Giffords and others wounded.

Loughner
pleaded guilty to federal charges under an agreement that guarantees he
will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of
parole.

The hearing marked the first time victims – including Giffords – could confront Loughner in court.

Her
astronaut husband, Mark Kelly, did all the talking for her, as the
couple looked at Loughner and told him how his deadly rampage at the
former congresswoman's political meeting had upended her life.

“Her
life has been forever changed. Plans she had for our family and her
career have been immeasurably altered,” Kelly said. “Every day is a
continuous struggle to do those things she once was so good at.”

Loughner showed no emotion, and looked at the other victims. His mother sobbed nearby.

“Mr.
Loughner, you may have put a bullet through her head but you haven't
put a dent in her spirit and her commitment to make the world a better
place,” Kelly said.

Giffords kissed Kelly when he was done. He grabbed her hand and they walked away, with her limping.

Earlier, Loughner told Burns that he will not be speaking at the hearing.

Loughner
pleaded guilty three months ago to 19 federal charges under an
agreement that guarantees he will spend the rest of his life in prison
without the possibility of parole.

Both sides
reached the deal after a judge declared that Loughner was able to
understand the charges against him. After the shooting, he was diagnosed
with schizophrenia and underwent forcible psychotropic drug treatments.

At the hearing, Loughner, who wore dress pants and a dark brown shirt with a tie, heard from his victims.

“We've
been told about your demons, about the illness that skewed your
thinking,” said Susan Hileman, at times visibly shaking, to Loughner.
“Your parents, your schools, your community, they all failed you.

“It's all true,” Hileman said. “It's not enough.”

“You
pointed a weapon and shot me three times,” she said, staring directly
at Loughner. He looked back at her. “And now I walk out of this
courtroom and into the rest of my life and I won't think of you again.”

Some
victims, including Giffords, welcomed the plea deal as a way to move
on. It spared victims and their families from having to go through a
potentially lengthy and traumatic trial and locks up the defendant for
life.

Christina Pietz, the court-appointed
psychologist who treated Loughner, had warned that although Loughner was
competent to plead guilty, he remained severely mentally ill and his
condition could deteriorate under the stress of a trial.

When
Loughner first arrived at a Missouri prison facility for treatment, he
was convinced Giffords was dead, even though he was shown a video of the
shooting. He eventually realized she was alive after he was forcibly
medicated.

It's unknown whether Pima County
prosecutors, who have discretion on whether to seek the death penalty
against Loughner, will file state charges against him. Stephanie
Coronado, a spokeswoman for Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall, said
Wednesday that no decision had been made.

It's
unclear where Loughner will be sent to serve his federal sentence. He
could return to a prison medical facility like the one in Springfield,
Mo., where he's been treated for more than a year. Or he could end up in
a prison such as the federal lockup in Florence, Colo., that houses
some of the country's most notorious criminals, including Oklahoma City
bombing conspirator Terry Nichols and “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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