March 5, 2024

The mother of a 6-year-old who shot his first-grade teacher in a Virginia classroom was sentenced on Wednesday to one year and nine months in prison after pleading guilty in June to using marijuana while owning a firearm and making false statements about drug use.

The sentencing of the 26-year-old mother, Deja Taylor, was the latest development in a shooting that shocked the country in January when the authorities detailed how a child had retrieved a gun from his home, put it in his backpack and brought it to Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Va.

There, the authorities said, the boy pulled out the gun in a classroom, aimed it at his teacher, Abigail Zwerner, and fired. The bullet passed through her hand and struck her chest, causing serious injuries.

Although recreational marijuana is allowed in Virginia, federal laws prohibit addicted or “unlawful” drug users from owning a gun.

Federal prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Eastern Virginia argued that Ms. Taylor was a “marijuana abuser whose chronic, persistent and, indeed, life-affecting abuse” extended the case beyond any sort of recreational use.

Ms. Taylor’s lawyer, Gene Rossi, said by phone on Wednesday that his client feels “contrite about the unintended consequences from her actions.”

“She feels incredibly remorseful and has a deep sense of guilt,” Mr. Rossi said, adding that Ms. Taylor has “severe addiction issues, mental health challenges that caused, in part, the incident that resulted in her son getting a hold of the gun.”

In August, Ms. Taylor pleaded guilty to a state charge of felony child neglect. Her sentencing in that case is scheduled for December.

Earlier this month, a judge ruled that Ms. Zwerner could move forward with a $40 million lawsuit against the Newport News Public Schools.

The child, who will be living with his great-grandfather while his mother serves her prison sentence, will not be charged.

On Jan. 12, six days after the shooting at Richneck Elementary School, agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives searched the garbage bin of Ms. Taylor’s home and found “copious amounts of marijuana and packaging for marijuana edibles,” according to prosecutors.

Agents then searched her grandfather’s residence and found more marijuana in her bedroom; they also searched her purse and found a glass jar with marijuana, marijuana cigarettes and marijuana packaging material, court records state.

Court records show that on July 19, Ms. Taylor completed a federal form required to purchase a firearm and checked a box that indicated she was not “an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana.”

But prosecutors argued that Ms. Taylor had checked that box while knowing that she was “an unlawful user of marijuana” when she purchased the firearm.

Ms. Taylor’s son told investigators after the shooting that he had gotten the gun by climbing on a dresser. Prosecutors said that Ms. Taylor told investigators that she might not have put the trigger lock on her gun the night before the shooting.

Prosecutors said the case underscored “the inherently dangerous nature and circumstances that arise” from mixing marijuana use and a lethal firearm.

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