NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – The mother of a 6-year-old boy accused of shooting his first-grade teacher at a Virginia elementary school earlier this year pleaded guilty in federal court on Monday to using marijuana while owning a firearm.
Deja Nicole Taylor, 25, of Newport News, pleaded guilty in Newport News federal court to a felony charge of having a firearm while also possessing marijuana, The Virginian-Pilot reported.
Taylor is also accused of making a false statement on a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) form to buy the firearm, according to WTKR-TV.
Owning a weapon while using marijuana is prohibited under federal law, according to The Virginian-Pilot.
Prosecutors said the boy used Taylor’s weapon on Jan. 6 to wound Abigail Zwerner, his first-grade teacher at Richneck Elementary School, WTKR reported.
Court documents state that Taylor bought a Taurus, Model PT111, G2A, 9mm, semiautomatic handgun on July 19, 2022, according to the television station.
Prosecutors said an investigation led them on Jan. 19, 2023, to search two residences where Taylor was living, WVEC-TV reported. Investigators allegedly found drugs, drug paraphernalia and a black firearm barrel lock at the first residence, according to the television station. They did not find a lockbox, a trigger lock or a key to the trigger lock, prosecutors said.
Agents also searched the home of Taylor’s mother, where Taylor was residing at the time, and found about 24.5 grams of marijuana, marijuana edible packaging, and marijuana paraphernalia, court documents stated.
Although the two charges carry a combined maximum prison term of 25 years, prosecutors have agreed in a negotiated plea to ask for no more than two years, The Virginian-Pilot reported.
“This does not bound the sentencing judge,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas Miller told Taylor before she agreed to the deal, The Virginian-Pilot reported. “The court can impose the sentence above or below the guideline range if it wants to.”
“It is clear from this case that enforcement of our existing federal firearm laws is critical to ensuring public safety,” Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a Department of Justice news release after Monday’s hearing. “Federal requirements for firearm ownership are not optional and exist to protect owners, their family members, and the communities where they live. Failing to abide by those requirements when purchasing or possessing a firearm can have far-reaching consequences.”
The federal charges Taylor faces are separate from charges she is facing at the state level. In April, she was charged with felony child neglect and reckless storage of a firearm.
A trial for those counts is set for August, according to The Associated Press.
Authorities were called to Richneck Elementary School just before 2 p.m. on Jan. 6 after police said a student intentionally shot Zwerner as she was teaching her class. Police said the single shot went through her hand and into her chest.
The bullet went through Zwerner’s left hand — which she held up as the boy opened fire — and then struck her in the upper chest and shoulder, according to The Virginian-Pilot.
The teacher was able to shuttle 18 students out of the classroom before seeking medical attention, the newspaper reported. She was released from an area hospital after several weeks of treatment.
Taylor’s sentencing in the federal case is scheduled for Oct. 18, according to the news organization. A trial on the state charges is set for August.
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