Atlanta-area spa shootings suspect set to be arraigned

Atlanta-area spa shootings suspect set to be arraigned
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The arraignment hearing for the suspected gunman in the March Atlanta-area shooting spree that killed eight people, including six Asian women, is scheduled to take place Tuesday, the Cherokee County District Attorney’s office said. 

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported Wednesday on the upcoming arraignment, where the charges against Robert Aaron Long will be formally announced more than four months after he allegedly opened fire on three spas.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis told the Journal-Constitution that she had been informed that a plea deal had been reached between the Cherokee district attorney's office and Long, though a spokesperson for Cherokee District Attorney Shannon Wallace said that the office was “ethically prohibited from discussing any type of plea negotiation.” 

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However, the spokesperson confirmed that the hearing was taking place Tuesday. 

Long was indicted in both Fulton County and Cherokee County, based on the locations of the three spas, and faces a total of 19 charges in connection with the shootings, including four counts of murder, four counts of felony murder and one count of domestic terrorism. 

The Hill has reached out to Wallace’s office, as well as Long’s attorney, J. Daran Burns, for comment. 

Willis announced in May that she would be seeking the death penalty against Long, whose alleged actions fueled national attention and conversations around the rise in anti-Asian violence amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Cherokee County Sheriff's Office previously said that Long had told investigators that he blamed the spas for his addiction to sex, claiming that the attacks were not racially motivated. 

Willis said in a press briefing after filing a notice on her intent to seek the highest punishment, as well as plans to file hate crime charges, that she had previously told Fulton County voters, "I could not imagine a circumstance where I would seek [the death penalty].” 

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"Unfortunately, a case has arisen in the first few months of my term that I believe warrants the ultimate penalty, and we shall seek it,” added Willis, who took office in January. 

ABC News reported that Willis filed a motion Tuesday requesting that Long be transferred to the Fulton County Jail following his arraignment in Cherokee County, as well as a request that an arraignment be held in Fulton "on or before August 6, 2021, or as soon as practical.” 

A month after the shootings, the Senate passed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, aimed at combating the rise in anti-Asian violence, with GOP Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleySenators slow Biden with holds at Pentagon, State Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE (Mo.) the only "no" vote. 

However, more than 75 Asian and LGBT groups in May came out in opposition to the bill, arguing that it “relies on anti-Black, law enforcement responses to the recent rise in anti-Asian bias incidents across the US.”