In the criminal complaint filed against Jared Lee Loughner, the FBI is building the case that U.S District Court Judge John Roll attended Rep. Gabrielle Giffords “Congress on your Corner” not by chance or on a social visit, but for official government business.
So why does Roll’s reason for attending the event — which ultimately ended in his death — matter? Because under federal law, the murder or attempted murder of a U.S. official is only considered a federal crime if committed while the official is engaged in or on account of the performance of official duties.
As Politico’s Josh Gerstein writes, an FBI agent uses “triple-hearsay” in the federal complaint against Loughner to argue that the 63-year-old chief judge of the District of Arizona was pursuing official business when he went to the Safeway in Tucson.
FBI Special Agent Tony M. Taylor cites his conversation with U.S Marshal David Gonzales, who confirmed (based on his conversation with Giffords’ Chief of Staff Pia Carusone) that Roll had recently worked with Giffords to resolve issues related to the volume of cases filed in his district. Gonzales reported that Roll was called and told about the event the day before it occurred, on Friday.
Gonzales said he spoke with Carusone, who confirmed that Ron Barber, another Giffords’ staffer, met and talked with Roll at the event. Video surveillance, showing the two men talking for a few minutes, confirms his account, according to the affidavit.
Roll allegedly planned on personally thanking Giffords for her recent help. Ninth Circuit judge Michael Daly Hawkins, who knew Judge Roll for over 40 years, told the Wall Street Journal that Giffords had signed a letter to Judge Alex Kozinski, the chief judge of the Ninth Circuit, to help convince the court to declare Roll’s federal judicial district a judicial emergency, because of the immense number of immigration cases being heard in that district.
Here’s the statute relevant to the federal charge:
Section 1114: Protection of officers and employees of the United States
Whoever kills or attempts to kill any officer or employee of the United States or of any agency in any branch of the United States Government (including any member of the uniformed services) while such officer or employee is engaged in or on account of the performance of official duties, or any person assisting such an officer or employee in the performance of such duties or on account of that assistance, shall be punished—
(1) in the case of murder, as provided under section 1111;
(2) in the case of manslaughter, as provided under section 1112; or
(3) in the case of attempted murder or manslaughter, as provided in section 1113.
Loughner could face additional charges on the state level for any of the murders or attempted murders he allegedly committed at the shooting, but it is unclear whether state prosecutors will procede given the federal case against him.