TUCSON, Ariz. - The man who pleaded guilty in the Arizona shooting rampage was sentenced to life in prison Thursday for the attack that left six people dead and wounded former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others.
The sentencing hearing marked the first time that victims confronted Jared Lee Loughner, 24, in court about the January 2011 shooting at a Giffords political event outside a grocery store in Tucson, Ariz.
Giffords didn't speak but her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, spoke on her behalf. He said Loughner changed his wife's life forever but couldn't dent her spirit.
Suzi Hileman, who was shot three times while trying to save her 9-year-old neighbor, and Mavy Stoddard, whose husband died shielding her from bullets, also addressed the court.
"He has to pay the consequences for what he did, and justice will be served," Hileman said.
Loughner declined to speak at the sentencing hearing.
He showed little response to the sentence, but watched people in the courtroom and appeared to be paying attention. He wore dress pants and a dark brown shirt with a tie.
Loughner's mother sobbed during the hearing. U.S. marshals escorted the parents from the courtroom after the sentencing.
Loughner 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.
Both sides reached the deal after a judge declared that Loughner was able to understand the charges against him. After the shooting, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and underwent forcible psychotropic drug treatments.
Christina Pietz, the court-appointed psychologist who treated Loughner, had warned that although Loughner was competent to plead guilty, he remained severely mentally ill and his condition could deteriorate under the stress of a trial.
When Loughner first arrived at a Missouri prison facility for treatment, he was convinced Giffords was dead, even though he was shown a video of the shooting, but eventually realized she was alive after he was forcibly medicated.
The life sentence was handed down Thursday by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns.
It's unknown whether Pima County prosecutors, who have discretion on whether to seek the death penalty against Loughner, will file state charges against him. Stephanie Coronado, a spokeswoman for Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall, said Wednesday that no decision had been made.
It's unclear where Loughner will be sent to serve his federal sentence. He could return to a prison medical facility like the one in Springfield, Mo., where he's been treated for more than a year. Or he could end up in a prison such as the federal lockup in Florence, Colo., that houses some of the country's most notorious criminals, including Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols and "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski.
The exact placement will depend on the nature of his mental illness and its treatment.