By Linda Deutsch
RA NCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. — A short, slender man speaking in a hoarse voice pleaded not guilty Thursday to 11 federal charges, including the murder of a Transportation Security Administration screener and the wounding of three other people during a rampage at Los Angeles International Airport last month.
The charges could bring him the death penalty. The decision on whether the government will seek the ultimate penalty will take a long time and will ultimately rest with U.S. Attorney General Erik Holder.
Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, who was wounded before his arrest, occasionally touched a large, white bandage on his neck during a three-minute arraignment before a federal magistrate at the West Valley Detention Center east of Los Angeles. The center has a medical facility.
The diminutive defendant acknowledged his name in a near-whisper and that he had read his 11-count indictment.
Trial was set for Feb. 11 in a downtown Los Angeles federal court. But that was a formality required to meet federal speedy trial requirements. Cianca can agree to a delay later if his lawyers determine more time is needed for preparation. A pretrial hearing was set for Jan. 27.
U.S. Attorney's spokesman Thom Mrozek said prosecutors are continuing to investigate the event which wreaked havoc at one of the nation's largest airports and disrupted air travel nationwide.
Ciancia is from Pennsville, N.J., and moved to Los Angeles in 2012.
Authorities say the unemployed motorcycle mechanic arrived at the airport's Terminal 3 on Nov. 1 with the intention of killing TSA workers. Officials have said Ciancia had a grudge against the agency, but they have not indicated what prompted it.
A motive was not mentioned during the brief hearing.
After entering the terminal, police say Ciancia pulled a semi-automatic rifle from a duffel bag and began spraying the area with gunfire as hundreds of people fled in terror.
TSA Officer Gerardo Hernandez was killed. Two other uniformed TSA officers and a traveler were wounded.
Hernandez, 39, became the first TSA officer to die in the line of duty. A coroner's report showed he was struck by a dozen bullets. Witnesses have said that after first shooting him, the gunman returned to shoot again when he saw Hernandez move.
Airport police arrested Ciancia following a gunfight in which they wounded him four times.
An indictment accuses him of "substantial planning and premeditation to cause the death of a person and to commit an act of terrorism."
Outside court, Mrozek noted there are no allegations that Ciancia was part of a terrorist conspiracy. He said the allegation of committing a murder in an international airport falls under a terrorism provision.
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