FILE PHOTO: VANG
Andy Manis  /  AP file
Chai Soua Vang in a Nov. 30, 2004, file photo.
updated 12/29/2004 11:40:35 AM ET 2004-12-29T16:40:35

A man accused of shooting six fellow deer hunters to death and wounding two others after being caught trespassing in the woods pleaded not guilty Wednesday.

Chai Soua Vang, 36, waived his right to a preliminary hearing and will stand trial on six counts of murder and three of attempted murder. A judge set a trial date of Sept. 12.

Gunfire broke out Nov. 21 after fellow hunters discovered the Hmong immigrant in a tree stand — a platform used to watch for deer — on their land.

Vang has suggested he acted in self-defense and feared for his life, telling investigators the victims fired a shot at him first and berated him with racist slurs.

The St. Paul, Minn., truck driver is behind bars on $2.5 million bail. He could get life in prison. Wisconsin does not have a death penalty.

Prosecutors added the third count of attempted murder Wednesday, accusing Vang of two distinct attempts to kill one hunter.

Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager was in court for the brief hearing — the first time she has appeared in a courtroom as a prosecutor since she was elected in 2002. She said she wants to prosecute Vang because of her “personal interest” in cases that involve crimes against people.

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