FILE – In this Nov. 30, 2015 file-pool photo, Colorado Springs shooting suspect, Robert Dear, right, appears via video before Judge Gilbert Martinez, with public defender Dan King, at the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center for this first court appearance, where he was told he faces first degree murder charges, in Colorado Springs, Colo. The man accused of killing three people at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic brought several guns, ammunition and propane tanks that he assembled around a car. To some in the community, the attack resembled an act of domestic terrorism, sparking a debate over what to call Robert Lewis Dear’s rampage even before he was taken into custody. (Daniel Owen/The Gazette via AP, Pool, File)
By ERIC TUCKER and SADIE GURMAN, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The legal system may not resolve the question of whether the fatal shooting of three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic was an act of domestic terrorism.
Robert Lewis Dear faces state charges of first-degree murder. But the federal criminal code has no specific, catchall charge for crimes considered domestic terrorism.
That means federal prosecutors bringing charges for ideologically motivated violence generally turn to other statutes to cover offenses that could arguably be labeled as terror. The punishment may be the same, but often without the branding more typically associated with international terrorism.
The Justice Department has said it’s reviewing the case. Federal officials have the option of filing charges, but they haven’t said whether they will do so.
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