L.A. Federal Prosecutors To Make Penalty Recommendation By Summer On LAX Shooter
Federal prosecutors will make their recommendation by early July on whether the death penalty should be sought against the 23-year- old suspect accused in the shooting spree at Los Angeles International Airport that resulted in the death of a TSA agent, court papers obtained today show.
According to a status report on the case — which is expected to be discussed in court Monday — the U.S. Attorney’s Office will “endeavor to provide its recommendation to the Attorney General by July 3” as to a possible death penalty against Paul Anthony Ciancia.
Prosecutors also advised Ciancia’s attorneys that any “defense input will have the most meaningful impact if it is provided at least a month prior” to July 3, according to the report.
“The government’s timing was carefully considered to balance the ability of the parties to conduct an effective and thorough investigation — and to make meaningful recommendations to the Attorney General — with the strong public interest in acting ‘as expeditiously as possible’ and allowing this matter to proceed to trial without undue delay,” prosecutors wrote.
The final decision on whether death is an appropriate penalty in the case is up to Attorney General Eric Holder.
Three charges in the 11-count indictment against Ciancia carry the potential for a death sentence: murder of a federal officer, use of a firearm that led to the murder, and act of violence in an international airport, according to Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez said trial would be delayed until a decision had been made.
Ciancia, a Pennsville, N.J., native who had been living in Sun Valley for about two years, is accused of storming into Terminal 3 last Nov. 1 with an assault rifle, killing Transportation Security Administration agent Gerardo Hernandez and wounding three others — two other TSA workers and one traveler.
Ciancia allegedly shot Hernandez at a lower-level LAX passenger check-in station and began walking upstairs, but returned when he realized Hernandez was still alive and shot him again.
In addition to first-degree murder, the indictment charges Ciancia with two counts of attempted murder for the shootings of TSA officers Tony Grigsby and James Speer. Brian Ludmer, a Calabasas teacher, was also wounded.
Ciancia is also charged with committing acts of violence at an international airport, one count of using a firearm to commit murder, and three counts of brandishing and discharging a firearm.
During the shooting spree, Ciancia was allegedly carrying a handwritten, signed note saying he wanted to kill TSA agents and “instill fear in their traitorous minds,” along with dozens of rounds of ammunition. Witnesses to the shooting said the gunman asked them whether they worked for the TSA, and if they said no, he moved on.
Ciancia was shot in the head and leg during a gun battle with airport police. He spent more than two weeks at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center before he was moved to the San Bernardino jail medical facility.