2011-01-20 / Local & State

Hearing, Sentencing Set For FBI Slaying Suspect

By Joe Mandak
ASSOCIATED PRESS

PITTSBURGH (AP) – A federal judge has scheduled a plea hearing and sentencing for a woman charged with murdering an FBI agent who came to arrest her husband on drug charges in a pre-dawn raid of their home in November 2008.

Federal prosecutors and Christina Korbe’s attorney, Caroline Roberto, would not comment on the sudden change in the case involving the fatal shooting of Special Agent Samuel Hicks because of a gag order.

U.S. District Judge Terrence McVerry posted an electronic scheduling order late Friday that said Korbe will enter a plea Tuesday morning and immediately be sentenced.

Online court records do not specify whether Korbe will plead guilty or no contest – or whether she’ll plead to all or some of the charges she faces or, perhaps even, lesser-related charges.

Korbe, 42, has repeatedly said she fired at Hicks only because she believed the officers raiding her Indiana Township home on Nov. 19, 2008, were unknown intruders. Hicks, 33, of Richland Township, another Pittsburgh suburb, was killed by one shot which struck him just above his bulletproof vest. He left behind a wife and toddler son.

But prosecutors insist that Hicks and other law officers loudly and clearly identified themselves before using a battering ram to blast through the Korbes’ door – and pointed to the actions of Korbe’s husband, Robert, as proof.

Robert Korbe pleaded guilty last year to the cocaine trafficking charges that brought Hicks and the other officers to his home that morning. He is serving 25 years in prison.

The night Hicks died, Robert Korbe immediately ran downstairs to dispose of cocaine and took other evasive actions that prosecutors contend prove he knew Hicks and the others were law enforcement officers.

Christina Korbe had also said she feared for the lives of the couple’s young children because of a burglary some months earlier, but prosecutors contend that there was no burglary. Rather, they said, Robert Korbe filed a false insurance claim that his motorcycle and some other items were stolen – and received about $20,000 – because he couldn’t sell the bike and wanted to get rid of it by having a friend take it.

Robert Korbe pleaded guilty to the insurance fraud along with the drug charges last year.

No documents have been filed that explain why Christina Korbe is now scheduled to enter a plea and be sentenced in the case.

On Jan. 11, the judge issued a court order that 350 potential jurors be summoned Feb. 14. McVerry wanted the jury pool to complete questionnaires and go through other screening procedures before Korbe’s trial, which had been scheduled to begin March 7.

Because federal prosecutors decided not to pursue the death penalty, the maximum Korbe faced was life in prison for the most serious charge she faces, murder of a federal officer. It’s unclear whether a life sentence will still be on the table Tuesday.

Korbe is also charged with assault of a federal officer with a dangerous weapon, discharging a firearm in a violent crime, helping a felon – her husband – to possess a weapon (the handgun that prosecutors say she used to kill Hicks) and various drug charges.

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