GREENBELT, Md. (AP) -- New federal weapons and extortion charges against sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad added to the questions over which jurisdiction will be the first to prosecute him and his alleged partner in the attacks.
Muhammad, 41, and John Lee Malvo, 17, are already charged with murder in Maryland and Virginia in the attacks that left 10 people dead and three others critically wounded. They are also charged with an Alabama slaying last month and are suspected in a February killing in Washington state.
The federal case could take precedence, though Attorney General John Ashcroft said negotiations over where the two men will first stand trial are continuing.
Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler, who filed six murder charges against the two on Friday, said the ultimate decision rests with the federal government, which has the suspects in custody.
"They hold all the cards," he said.
Federal prosecutors charged Muhammad under the Hobbs Act, a 1946 union corruption law the government uses against people accused of trying to extort money or disrupt interstate commerce. The charge was based on a note, found at the scene of one of the shootings, demanding $10 million.
However, Justice Department officials said prosecutors believe the firearms charges would make the best death penalty case at this point because they have the best evidence -- a weapon linked to the killings.
"I believe the ultimate sanction ought to be available here," Ashcroft said, adding that the sniper slayings are "an atrocity."
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