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Haq now pleads not guilty in shooting spree
Seattle Times staff reporter
Five days after he tried to plead guilty, the man accused of killing one woman and wounding five others last month inside the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle pleaded not guilty Tuesday to nine felonies, including one that could bring the death penalty.
Naveed Afzal Haq remained silent as his attorney entered the not-guilty pleas on his behalf during Haq's arraignment in King County Superior Court.
"He does understand the nature of the charges and is capable of assisting in his defense," said attorney C. Wesley Richards. "We believe he is competent at this time."
Tuesday's arraignment was in contrast to Thursday's hearing, when Richards, prosecutors and observers were all taken by surprise as Haq tried to plead guilty to all of the charges against him. Richards told the judge he was concerned about Haq's mental competency. It has been reported that Haq suffers from bipolar disorder.
The judge continued Haq's arraignment until Tuesday to allow Haq more time to discuss his case with his attorneys.
Judge Paris Kallas said Tuesday that in accepting Haq's not-guilty pleas, the court was not making a determination about Haq's mental competency to stand trial.
Haq is accused of forcing his way into the Belltown Seattle offices of the Jewish Federation on July 28 and opening fire on employees, killing Pamela Waechter, 58, director of the Jewish charity's annual fundraising campaign, and wounding five other women. Haq, 30, who said he was an American Muslim, reportedly spouted anti-Semitic and anti-Israel statements during the shootings, according to charging papers.
Haq is charged with one count of aggravated first-degree murder, five counts of attempted murder, kidnapping, burglary and malicious harassment. The only possible punishments for aggravated first-degree murder are life in prison without the possibility of release or the death penalty.
King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng has until Sept. 15 to decide whether to seek the death penalty.
Haq is to be back in court Aug. 30.
Of the five women wounded in the shootings, Layla Bush, 23, remains in serious condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, and Cheryl Stumbo, 43, and Christina Rexroad, 29, are in satisfactory condition. Carol Goldman, 35, and Dayna Klein, 37, have been released.
After the arraignment, Richard Fruchter, president and chief executive of the Jewish Federation, said Haq's decision to plead not guilty will have no impact on his organization's plan to move forward with its regular operations. Fruchter appeared at a news conference with about a dozen employees and friends of Federation employees who attended Haq's arraignment.
No matter what the outcome of Haq's trial, Fruchter said, "It will take us years to unravel his devastation."
Natalie Singer: 206-464-2704 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Seattle Times staff reporters Nathan Hurst and Jennifer Sullivan contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company