Was Chief Federal District Judge John M. Roll of Arizona on duty when he died in Saturday’s shooting rampage in Tucson? The federal charges against the alleged gunman, Jared Lee Loughner, could in theory stand or fall based on the answer, The New York Times reports
The federal criminal complaint against Loughner says Judge Roll “was engaged in the performance of official duties” when he went to a public forum held by his friend, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
But in the received narrative of that day’s events, Roll was merely “on his way back from attending Mass, as he did every day, when he decided to stop by and say ‘Hi’ to his representative.”
So said President Barack Obama on Tuesday at a Tucson memorial service for the shooting victims. His remarks would have no bearing against the expected state prosecution of Loughner.
But the comments might complicate the federal case if a court rules that Roll wasn’t officially on the job and therefore not covered under a 1971 law that categorizes the killing of federal employees as a federal crime.
One former federal prosecutor, frequent Obama administration critic Andrew C. McCarthy, said the president’s version of events “certainly doesn’t help” the government's case but ultimately doesn’t deny Loughner a fair trial.
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