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Judge postpones trial of accused Los Angeles airport gunman

Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, is pictured in this undated handout photo courtesy of the FBI. REUTERS/FBI/Handout via Reuters
Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, is pictured in this undated handout photo courtesy of the FBI. REUTERS/FBI/Handout via Reuters

By Dana Feldman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The upcoming trial of a man accused of killing a U.S. security screener and wounding three people at Los Angeles International Airport was postponed on Monday by a federal judge, giving prosecutors more time to decide whether to seek the death penalty.

Paul Anthony Ciancia, who is accused of walking into an airport terminal in November and opening fire with a semi-automatic rifle, had been tentatively set for trial next week on murder and attempted murder charges.

But U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez vacated that trial date at the request of prosecutors, who said during a brief pre-trial hearing in federal court in Los Angeles that they were going through a "multi-step process" of determining whether to seek the death penalty against Ciancia.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said U.S. Attorney Eric Holder would make the final decision in the coming weeks. Gutierrez ordered both sides back to court on March 3 for another status conference in the case.

Ciancia, who was wounded by gunfire from police during the shooting rampage at the airport, appeared in court wearing a bandage on his neck and green prison garb, his hands cuffed in front of him. He did not speak during the hearing.

A defense attorney said Ciancia, 23, had been recovering from his wounds in jail and "getting stronger every day."

The TSA agent killed in the attack, Gerardo Hernandez, 39, was the first agent slain in the line of duty since the agency was created in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks.

In addition to a single count of murder and two counts of attempted murder of federal officers, Ciancia is charged with four counts of committing an act of violence at an international airport and four counts of firearms offenses. He has been ordered held without bond pending trial.

(Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Bernard Orr)

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