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Not guilty plea entered for Loughner

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Not guilty plea entered for Loughner

The man accused of shooting U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others at a Tucson grocery store Jan. 8 had a not guilty plea entered for him by a federal judge today.

Jared Lee Loughner did not speak at the brief hearing at a federal courtroom in Phoenix. He sat still and smiling throughout the 20-minute hearing, those in the courtroom said.

Loughner, who faces five counts of shooting federal employees, was arraigned Monday on three of the charges: the shooting of Giffords, and her staffers Ron Barber and Pamela Simon.

Loughner was indicted on those charges last week. Federal prosecutors said the attempted murder charges were “just the beginning.”

He still faces a likely indictment in the deaths of Arizona's chief federal judge, John Roll, and Gabriel Zimmerman, another Giffords aide.

State charges in the deaths of four others, and the others who were wounded, are also likely, authorities said.

Six died and 19 others were wounded in the attack, which authorities have characterized as an assassination attempt on Giffords.

Loughner faces up to life in prison if he is convicted of attempting to kill a member of Congress. The two federal murder charges may mean he could face the death penalty.

In a court filing yesterday, prosecutors asked to move future hearings to Tucson.

“It is difficult for the victims to attend hearings, since they must factor in a four-hour round trip car ride to Phoenix,” U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke said in the filing. “There will be similar logistical issues with the scheduling of witnesses.”

The hearings had been moved to Phoenix to avoid a conflict of interest, given Roll's position as a federal judge in Tucson.

All of the federal judges in Arizona have since recused themselves from the case. A judge from San Diego, Larry A. Burns, was brought in to handle the hearings.

A status conference was set for March 9. No trial date has been set for Loughner.

Based on official documents and reports from courtroom witnesses.

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