The man who pleaded guilty in the Arizona shooting rampage will be sentenced Thursday for the attack that left six people dead and wounded former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others.
The sentencing hearing will mark the first time that victims will confront Jared Lee Loughner in court about the January 2011 shooting at a Giffords political event outside a grocery store in Tucson, Ariz.
Prosecutors say an unspecified number of victims will comment before U.S. District Judge Larry Burns sentences Loughner, though it’s unknown whether Giffords or her husband plan to attend or have a statement read on their behalf. Three shooting victims have told The Associated Press that they intend to comment at the hearing.
The 24-year-old had 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.
The crime was brutal: a 7-year-old girl choked, raped and forced to smoke drugs before she was left for dead in a fire set by her attacker. Somehow, she survived. Firefighters founder her at dawn, stumbling through the street and wearing just one shoe.
The child couldn’t initially name her attacker, but police quickly targeted a 36-year-old with a lengthy rap sheet who had first met the girl hours earlier at an all-night card game hosted by his cousin. The girl’s grandmother brought her there and left her to watch TV and play video games in a nearby bedroom.
A Greene County jury found Jeffery Allen Dickson guilty of child kidnapping, forcible rape and forcible sodomy in the April 6, 2008, attack, and a judge sentenced Dickson to four consecutive life terms. He remains imprisoned at the Potosi Correctional Center in southeast Missouri.
The case shocked and horrified local residents, and Dickson’s arrest days later eased the minds of those who feared that a child rapist remained on the loose. But new evidence unearthed by Dickson’s state-appointed appeals court lawyer and reviewed as part of a five-month Associated Press investigation suggests that a rush to judgment could have caused police and prosecutors to target the wrong man.