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Judge intervenes with plea in Colorado theater shooting

Centennial, Colo. • James Holmes sat quietly as a packed courtroom waited Tuesday for a plea in a deadly shooting rampage he is accused of unleashing in a crowded Colorado movie theater last summer.

Instead, his lawyers told the judge they weren't ready to enter a plea — despite numerous delays since the July 20 attack that killed 12 people and injured 70 at a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises." Judge William Sylvester entered a not guilty plea on Holmes' behalf.

Legal experts said the defense's statement may be part of a larger strategy to avoid the death penalty. Holmes can still change his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity, and he can wait to do so until after prosecutors announce whether they will seek the death penalty.

Colorado lawmakers OK gay civil unions

Denver • Colorado lawmakers took a historic vote to approve civil unions for gay couples Tuesday, delivering on a campaign promise from Democrats who have capitalized on the changing political landscape of a state where voters banned same-sex marriage not long ago.

The bill on its way to the desk of Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper is expected to be signed into law within two weeks, capping a three-year fight over a proposal to grant gay couples rights similar to marriage. Once the measure is signed, Colorado will join eight states that have civil unions or similar laws. Nine states and the District of Columbia allow gay marriage.

Craigslist killer may face death penalty

Akron, Ohio • Richard Beasley, a self-styled street preacher accused of teaming up with a high school student in a deadly plot to lure men with Craigslist job offers and then rob them was found guilty Tuesday of aggravated murder and could face the death penalty.

Beasley was charged with killing two men from Ohio and one from Norfolk, Va. A man from South Carolina was shot but survived and testified about running for his life and hiding in the woods, scared he would bleed to death.

The 16-year-old student, Brogan Rafferty, was convicted and sentenced last year to life in prison without the chance of parole.

NYC cop convictedin cannibalism plot

New York • Police Officer Gilberto Valle's lawyers said he was just spinning sick and twisted fantasies for his own pleasure when he chatted online about abducting, roasting and eating women. A jury, though, decided he was deadly serious.

Valle, 28, dropped his head and wept when the verdict in what the tabloids dubbed the "Cannibal Cop" trial was announced after more than two days of deliberations: guilty of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and guilty of illegally using a police database. He could get life in prison at sentencing June 19 but is likely to face much less.

Prosecutors said Valle plotted in lusty, lip-smacking detail to abduct, torture and cannibalize six women he knew, including his wife. Prosecutors said he took concrete steps to carry out his plot.

They said the New York City police officer looked up potential targets on a restricted law enforcement database; searched the Internet for how to knock someone out with chloroform and where to get torture devices and other tools; and showed up on a woman's block after striking an agreement to kidnap her for $5,000 for a New Jersey man who wanted to rape and kill her. That man was also arrested and is awaiting trial.

Soldier's audio leakedin WikiLeaks case

Hagerstown, Md. • Some supporters of an Army private charged with aiding the enemy released a leaked audio recording Tuesday of Pfc. Bradley Manning explaining why he sent hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.

The Freedom of the Press Foundation, a group co-founded by Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, posted the 68-minute recording of Manning's voice on its website. The recording was from a Feb. 28 court-martial pretrial hearing at Fort Meade, near Baltimore. News organizations reported on Manning's' statement at the time, but spectators were prohibited from recording the proceedings.

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