- - Monday, January 24, 2011


Not guilty plea in deadly mass shooting

TUCSON | The man accused of carrying out a mass shooting in Tucson pleaded not guilty Monday to charges he tried to kill Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and two of her aides.

The plea by Jared Lee Loughner marked his second court appearance since he allegedly shot the congresswoman and 18 others at Ms. Giffords’ meet-and-greet event on Jan. 8 outside a grocery store in Tucson. Six people died, including U.S. District Judge John Roll and 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green. Thirteen others were wounded.

Mr. Loughner, 22, faces federal charges of trying to assassinate Ms. Giffords and attempting to murder two of her aides. He will later face state charges dealing with other victims.

At least eight U.S. marshals were present at the hearing in the Phoenix courthouse, where Mr. Loughner entered Monday afternoon smiling and wearing an orange prison suit and glasses. His hair, shaved in the mug shot that has become an enduring image of the tragedy, has grown out slightly.

Investigators have said Mr. Loughner was mentally disturbed and acting increasingly erratic in the weeks leading up to the shooting. If his attorney uses mental competency questions as a defense and is successful, Mr. Loughner could be sent to a mental health facility instead of being sentenced to prison or death.

But his attorney, Judy Clarke, said she wasn’t raising issues of competency “at this time” after U.S. District Judge Larry Burns of San Diego asked whether there was any question about her client’s ability to understand the case against him.


2 officers, suspect killed in firefight

ST. PETERSBURG | Authorities and a fugitive holed up in an attic fired more than 100 shots at each other Monday in a firefight that killed two officers, wounded a deputy U.S. marshal and led to an hours-long standoff that ended when the suspect was found dead inside the home.

St. Petersburg police spokesman Michael Puetz said the gunman’s body was found when officers went into the home Monday afternoon, about six hours after the shootout, the latest in a recent rash of shootings across the nation that have killed or wounded law enforcement officers.

Law enforcement officers had been at the home to arrest Hydra Lacy Jr., 39, around 7 a.m. on an aggravated battery charge, and investigators think he is the one who opened fire on the officers, Mr. Puetz said. They had not confirmed Lacy was the shooter.

He said Lacy had a long record that includes convictions for armed robbery and sexual battery. He was listed as a sex offender with the state and had failed to register in December with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department as required. Deputies had been looking for him since then, and the sheriff’s and police departments had issued bulletins Friday asking authorities to be on the lookout for Lacy.


Planned Parenthood seeks FBI probe

NEW YORK | Planned Parenthood, the leading abortion provider in the U.S., has told the FBI that several of its health centers were visited recently by a man purporting to be a sex trafficker but who may instead be part of an attempted ruse.

Planned Parenthood said the man requested information about health services for underage sex workers.

Spokesman Stuart Schear said Planned Parenthood is requesting an FBI probe of the man’s claims. However, Mr. Schear said the man has links with Live Action, a pro-life group that conducted previous undercover projects to discredit Planned Parenthood.

Live Action’s president, Lila Rose, declined to confirm or deny that the visits were part of a Live Action operation. She did say that an undercover videotape project of some sort is in the works.


Trucker sentenced in smuggling deaths

HOUSTON | A judge has resentenced a truck driver to nearly 34 years in prison after an appeals court last year overturned the multiple life sentences he received for his role in America’s deadliest human smuggling attempt.

Tyrone Williams, 39, was given his new sentence on Monday during a hearing in Houston federal court.

Williams had faced possible death sentences on 19 counts of transporting illegal aliens. But a jury in 2007 sentenced him to life in prison without parole for the failed May 2003 smuggling attempt, which resulted in the deaths of 19 illegal immigrants.

The appeals court said Williams was not death-penalty eligible and his sentence should have been issued by the judge. Twenty other counts Williams was sentenced on were upheld by the appeals court.

During the sentencing hearing, prosecutor Daniel Rodriguez made an impassioned plea that despite the appeals court’s ruling, the truck driver deserved to remain in prison for life for the deadly May 2003 smuggling attempt in which Williams transported a group of immigrants inside a sweltering tractor-trailer.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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