By Tim Gaynor
TUCSON, Arizona (Reuters) - Nearly two years after surviving an attempt on her life, former Arizona U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords stood in federal court on Thursday to face her assailant before he was sentenced for shooting six people to death and wounding 13 others, including Giffords.
Jared Loughner, 24, a college dropout with a history of psychiatric disorders, was expected to receive seven consecutive life prison terms without the possibility of parole under a plea deal with prosecutors that spares him the death penalty.
Loughner, asked at the outset of the hearing by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns if he had chosen to waive his right to make a statement, answered in a low voice, "That's true."
He was otherwise silent as he sat next to his lawyer, Judy Clarke.
Giffords, who suffered a head wound that left her with speech difficulties and a limp, stood by the side of her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, as he addressed Loughner directly in a clear, ringing voice.
"You may have put a bullet through her head, but you haven't put a dent in her commitment to make the world a better place," Kelly told him.
"Although you were mentally ill, you were responsible," he added. "You have decades upon decades to contemplate what you did, but from this moment, Gabby and I are done thinking about you."
Giffords did not speak.
In the audience were Loughner's parents, Amy and Randy, and Giffords' former congressional aide, Ron Barber, who also was wounded in the January 8, 2011, shooting.
Loughner pleaded guilty in August in federal court to 19 charges, including murder and attempted murder, in connection with the shootings outside a Tucson area supermarket.
He admitted going to a "Congress On Your Corner" event armed with a loaded Glock 19 pistol and 60 additional rounds of ammunition with plans to kill Giffords, who was seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party.
Loughner shot her through the head at close range. Six people were killed, including U.S. District Judge John Roll and 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green.
Loughner also admitted shooting the others with the intent to kill.
Court-appointed experts said Loughner suffered from schizophrenia, disordered thinking and delusions. He was determined unfit to stand trial in May 2011 after he disrupted court proceedings and was dragged out of the courtroom.
Loughner later was ruled mentally competent to stand trial after being treated for psychosis at a U.S. Bureau of Prisons psychiatric hospital in Springfield, Missouri. He then agreed to plead guilty.
Few clues to the motives for the attack have emerged. But prison psychologist Christina Pietz has testified that Loughner had expressed remorse for the rampage and especially for the 9-year-old girl's death.
Giffords resigned from Congress in January to focus on her recovery. Her former aide, Ron Barber, who was also wounded in the shooting spree, served out the rest of her term after winning a special election.
Barber ran in Tuesday's election for a newly created congressional district in Arizona and was running neck-and-neck with Republican Martha McSally, with the outcome hanging on some 80,000 provisional and early votes that have yet to be tallied.
(Additional reporting by Jazmine Woodberry; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Jackie Frank and Vicki Allen)
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