A federal judge on Thursday sentenced Jared Lee Loughner to life in prison, without the possibility of parole, for a January 2011 shooting spree and attempted assassination of then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Giffords was critically wounded in the incident but survived. She is slowly regaining her ability to walk and talk, although she has resigned from Congress.
The incident killed six people and wounded 13 others.
Thursday’s sentencing occurred after a prison psychologist testified that the Arizona man who pleaded guilty to the attempted assassination is competent and understands the legal proceedings against him.
U.S. District Judge Larry Burns then ruled that Loughner, 24, was competent to be sentenced.
Loughner spoke briefly after his lawyer offered no argument and said the defendant would not make a statement.
"That is true," Loughner told the judge.
A Bureau of Prison psychologist testified that Loughner understood what was happening. Dr. Christina Pietz said she visited with Loughner in prison "almost every day."
Giffords sat next to husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, on the second row of the packed courtroom.
Giffords stood next to Kelly when it was his turn to speak at the hearing.
"Her life has been forever changed. Plans she had for our family and her career have been immeasurably altered," Kelly said. "Every day is a continuous struggle to do those things she once was so good at.
"Mr. Loughner, you may have put a bullet through her head, but you have not put a dent in her spirit and her commitment to make the world a better place," Kelly said.
The Associated Press reported that Loughner showed no emotion as Kelly spoke, looking instead at the other victims. His mother sobbed nearby.
"Gabby and I are done thinking about you," Kelly told Loughner, as he finished his remarks.
Giffords kissed Kelly when he was done. He grabbed her hand and they walked away, with her limping.
Under a deal with prosecutors three months ago, Loughner pleaded guilty to 19 federal charges and will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to the AP.
The deal calls for the dismissal of 30 other charges and a sentence of seven consecutive life terms, followed by 140 years in prison.
A former congressional aide wounded in the January 2011 assassination attempt on Giffords told the judge he supports a life sentence for Loughner.
"Now you must pay the price of the terror, violence and injuries you caused," said U.S. Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.), who now holds the congressional seat vacated by Giffords.
Other victims’ statements often were harrowing.
"My children will forever remember the moments of people when they died, the smell of blood everywhere," said Mary Reed, one of several victims who spoke at Jared Loughner's sentencing hearing Thursday.
"Mr. Loughner introduced my children to something sinister and evil," said Reed, who was wounded in Loughner's shooting spree.
Susan Hileman, who also was wounded by Loughner's Glock pistol, stood before him at his sentencing hearing and spoke Thursday.
"You pointed a weapon at me and shot me," Hileman said. "Over last several months, I wanted to take you by the shoulders and shake you and scream at you."
Another victim, who knew Loughner as a child, also testified.
"Jared, I know you did not choose this illness that led to this horrific tragedy," said Pamela Simon, a congressional aide wounded in the incident. "When you were a student in middle school and I was a teacher, you were a regular kid."
One of the prosecutors, Assistant U.S. Attorney Wallace Keindienst, called Loughner's actions “an assault on democracy.”
Kleindienst told Loughner he had been "given a gift, whether you know it or not."
The prosecutor noted, "Almost all the victims you shot and the families of those you killed came to us and said they didn't want us to seek the death penalty in this case."
Copyright CNN, AP