TUCSON, Ariz. — The man who pleaded guilty to a deadly Arizona shooting rampage that wounded former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has been sentenced to life in prison.
U.S. District Judge Larry Burns sentenced 24-year-old Jared Lee Loughner on Thursday 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 husband spoke on her behalf, saying Loughner changed his wife’s life forever but couldn’t dent her spirit.
Kelly also lambasted elected officials for their positions on gun control, naming Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer as one of many “feckless” state elected leaders who ”look at gun violence,not as a problem to solve, but as the white elephant in the room to ignore.”
The 24-year-old 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. The deal calls for the dismissal of 30 other charges and a sentence of seven consecutive life terms, followed by 140 years in prison.
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.
Some victims, including Giffords, welcomed the 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.