Accused L.A. airport gunman to be spared death penalty in plea deal
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Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, is questioned by U.S. Magistrate Judge David Bristow (L) in this courtroom sketch at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, California, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Bill Robes/POOL
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By Alex Dobuzinskis
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The man accused of killing a security screener and wounding three others in a 2013 shooting at Los Angeles International Airport has agreed to plead guilty in a deal with prosecutors that would spare him the death penalty, according to court documents filed on Thursday.
Murder of a federal officer, the most serious offense among the 11 criminal counts to which Paul Anthony Ciancia, 26, has agreed to plead guilty, carries a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison without parole.
He has also agreed to plead guilty to attempted murder of a federal officer, violence at an airport, discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence causing death and discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence, according to the plea agreement filed in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
Ciancia, who has been in custody since he was critically wounded in a shootout with police during the Nov. 1, 2013, attack, is expected to enter his guilty plea at an upcoming hearing. The court documents did not give a date.
Federal prosecutors said last year they intended to seek the death penalty for Ciancia if the case went to trial, citing what they said was his substantial planning and premeditation ahead of the crime and its impact on the victims.
However, federal prosecutors said in the agreement they would "not seek the death penalty against defendant."
Authorities say Ciancia walked into Terminal 3 of the nation's second-busiest airport carrying a semi-automatic rifle and opened fire, killing Gerardo Hernandez, 53, an agent for the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA), as he stood at the entrance to a security checkpoint.
Hernandez was the first TSA officer killed in the line of duty since the agency was created following the Sept. 11, 2001, suicide hijacking attacks on the United States.
Federal authorities have said that Ciancia, from New Jersey, had set out to target TSA employees.
Investigators said in a criminal complaint they found a handwritten letter signed by Ciancia in his bag that addressed TSA officials, writing that he wanted to "instill fear in your traitorous minds."
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Steve Gorman, Leslie Adler and Paul Tait)
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