PHOENIX (Reuters) - Tucson shooting rampage suspect Jared Loughner is due to appear in federal court on Monday on charges of attempting to assassinate Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the attempted murder of two of her staff members.
A troubled 22-year-old college dropout, Loughner is accused of opening fire on Giffords and a crowd of bystanders outside a grocery store in north Tucson on January 8, killing six people, including federal judge John Roll.
He will be arraigned on the three counts of attempted assassination and attempted murder in U.S. District Court in central Phoenix at 1:30 p.m. before District Judge Larry Burns.
The mass killings triggered debates about gun control in the United States, and the increasingly vitriolic tone in U.S. politics, although the motives for the attack are unclear.
A federal judge from California, Burns was appointed to the case after Roll’s colleagues on the Arizona federal bench recused themselves from hearing the case.
Authorities said that Giffords was the primary target in the attack, in which she was shot through the head at point-blank range.
She was transferred to a rehabilitation facility in Houston, Texas, on Friday, following life-saving surgery and intensive care at the University Medical Center in Tucson in the days after the shooting.
A federal grand jury indictment brought on Wednesday did not include any murder charges for Roll, the chief federal judge in Arizona who had stopped at the supermarket store to talk to Giffords, or Gabe Zimmerman, the lawmaker’s director of community outreach.
Before the government can charge Loughner for the murders of Roll and Zimmerman -- and because such charges could carry the death penalty -- prosecutors must first seek review by the Justice Department and ultimately approval from Attorney General Eric Holder to seek the death penalty.”
Loughner faces up to life in prison if convicted of Giffords’ attempted assassination, and up to 20 years for the attempted murder of her two staff members.
A five-count criminal complaint filed the day after the shooting included two first-degree murder charges for the deaths of Roll and Zimmerman.
Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Jerry Norton