Federal Charges Cite Assassination Plan

by editor | 10th January 2011 8:49 am

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John Moore/Getty Images

People placed candles at a makeshift memorial outside the University Medical Center on Sunday

Evidence seized from Mr. Loughner’s home, about five miles from the shooting, indicated that he had planned to kill Representative Gabrielle Giffords, Democrat of Arizona, according to documents filed in Federal District Court in Phoenix.
Special Agent Tony M. Taylor Jr. of the F.B.I. said in an affidavit that an envelope found in a safe in the home bore these handwritten words: “I planned ahead,” “My assassination” and “Giffords.”
Mr. Loughner, who is believed to have acted alone, is in federal custody and is scheduled to make his first court appearance before a magistrate judge in Phoenix on Monday.
Ms. Giffords was in critical condition after surviving, against the odds, a single gunshot wound to the head at point-blank range. Her doctors were cautiously optimistic that she would survive, and said on Sunday that they had removed nearly half of her skull to prevent damage from the swelling of her brain.
An outpouring of grief was on display all over Tucson, where friends of the many victims joined complete strangers in lighting candles and offering tear-filled prayers. From the back of the temple Ms. Giffords attends, Naomi Present, the distraught daughter of a rabbi, cried out on Sunday morning, “Why, why, why, why?”
Many across America were asking the same thing, and the state found itself on the defensive, with its top lawmakers asserting that Arizona was not a hothouse of ugly rhetoric. President Obama called on Americans to observe a moment of silence at 11 a.m. Monday in honor of the wounded and dead.
Robert S. Mueller III
, the director of the F.B.I., traveled to Tucson to oversee the shooting investigation at Mr. Obama’s request. He said an intensive investigation was seeking to determine “why someone would commit such a heinous act and whether anyone else was involved.” Mr. Mueller added that discussions were under way to increase security for all members of Congress.
Capitol security agencies are planning to join the F.B.I. on Wednesday in a security briefing for members of Congress. Already, the United States Marshals Service has increased protection for federal judges in Arizona.

Investigators here focused their attention on Mr. Loughner, whom they accused of methodically planning the shootings, which occurred outside a supermarket. The court documents said Mr. Loughner bought the semiautomatic Glock pistol used in the shooting at Sportsman’s Warehouse, which sells hunting and fishing gear, on Nov. 30 in Tucson.
The gun was legally purchased, officials said, prompting criticism of the state’s gun laws, which allow the carrying of concealed weapons. Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik of Pima County, a critic of what he calls loose gun restrictions, bluntly labeled Arizona “Tombstone.”
The documents also indicated that the suspect had previous contact with the congresswoman. Also found in the safe at Mr. Loughner’s home was a letter from Ms. Giffords thanking him for attending a 2007 “Congress on Your Corner” event, like the one she was holding Saturday morning when she was shot.
Along with being accused of trying to kill Ms. Giffords, Mr. Loughner was charged with the killing and attempted killing of four government employees: John M. Roll, the chief federal judge in Arizona, who was killed; Gabriel Zimmerman, a Congressional aide, who was also killed; and Pamela Simon and Ron Barber, aides who were wounded. Mr. Loughner could face the death penalty if convicted.
The indictment against Mr. Loughner indicated that the authorities had surveillance video, which was not released, that captured events outside the supermarket. Outside lawyers said the footage would probably be saved for court. The authorities did release 911 tapes of the minutes after the shooting, at 10:11 a.m. Saturday, in which caller after caller, many out of breath, dialed in to report shots fired, many shots, and people falling, too many to count.
Mr. Mueller said additional state charges might be filed, and he did not rule out the filing of terrorism charges.
Mr. Loughner has refused to cooperate with investigators and has invoked his Fifth Amendment rights, the Pima County sheriff’s office said.
Judy Clarke, a federal public defender who has handled major cases, has been appointed to represent Mr. Loughner, CNN reported. Ms. Clarke has defended Theodore J. Kaczynski, who was convicted in the Unabomber attacks, and Zacarias Moussaoui, the Qaeda operative.
Reporting for the Arizona shooting coverage was contributed by David M. Herszenhorn, Emmarie Huetteman, Janie Lorber, Thom Shanker, Michael D. Shear and Ashley Southall from Washington; Jo Becker, Lisa M. Button, Ford Burkhart, Renee Schafer Horton, Devlin Houser, Ron Nixon, Nancy Sharkey, Anissa Tanweer and Roxana Vasquez from Tucson; Joe Sharkey from Sierra Vista, Ariz.; Catrin Einhorn, J. David Goodman, Anahad O’Connor, Sharon Otterman, Mosi Secret, Sarah Wheaton and Kate Zernike from New York; and Kitty Bennett from St. Petersburg, Fla.

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