A federal grand jury in Tucson indicted Jared Lee Loughner on three charges of attempting to kill U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and two of her aides, Ron Barber and Pamela Simon.

The indictment alleges that Loughner, 22, attempted to assassinate Giffords, a member of Congress, and attempted to murder two federal employees, Barber and Simon.

“We are in the early stages of this ongoing investigation. We have made considerable progress in a short period of time,” said U.S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke.  “This case also involves potential death-penalty charges, and Department rules require us to pursue a deliberate and thorough process. Today’s charges are just the beginning of our legal action.”

Loughner has been held in federal custody since Jan. 8 shooting on the northwest side of Tucson. Six people were killed and 13 wounded.

A conviction for the attempted assassination of a member of Congress carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, a $250,000 fine or both.  A conviction for attempted murder of a federal employee carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both.

He is also facing federal charges in the deaths of U.S. District Judge John Roll and Gabe Zimmerman, an aide to Giffords. The indictments handed down Wednesday does not cover those cases.

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