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Mother of 6-year-old who shot Richneck Elementary teacher to plead guilty to federal gun charges

Deja Taylor's attorney said she will plead guilty to the charges that were filed Monday.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The mother of the 6-year-old Richneck Elementary School student who shot his teacher earlier this year is now facing federal firearms charges. Her lawyer tells 13News Now that she plans to enter a guilty plea.

25-year-old Deja Taylor was charged with being an unlawful user of a controlled substance in possession of a firearm and making a false statement during the purchase of a firearm.

According to court documents filed Monday, Taylor made a false claim on the firearms transaction form she filled out when she bought a 9mm handgun in 2022. Section G of that form asks, "Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?"

Prosecutors said Taylor lied when she answered no, and that she was actually a marijuana user. 

While marijuana is legal in Virginia, the form notes that "the use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside."

Taylor is already criminally indicted on a charge of felony child neglect and a misdemeanor charge of endangering a child by reckless storage of a firearm.

Taylor's son shot first-grade teacher Abby Zwerner on January 6 inside her classroom at Richneck Elementary School. 

Police had previously said the boy’s mother legally purchased the gun, but the federal complaint now claims she lied on her application to purchase and possess the gun.

Taylor's attorney, James Ellenson, issued a statement Monday afternoon saying his client will plead guilty to the federal charges:

Deja Taylor will enter guilty pleas to the charges that were filed today as an information by the U.S. Attorneys’ office of the Eastern District of Virginia. The information was an agreed procedure which eliminated the need for the government to take the case to a grand jury. Our action follows very constructive negotiations we had with federal authorities. The terms of the agreement, which we believe to be fair to all parties, will be disclosed when we enter the guilty plea. That should occur later this week or next. 

We intend to present mitigating evidence that we trust the Court will view favorably at sentencing later this year following preparation of a pre-sentence report.

We thank the US Attorney's office for its good faith participation in discussions.

The shooting that occurred on January 6, 2023, at Richneck Elementary School was a tragedy for all parties, most especially teacher Abby Zwerner for whom we wish a complete recovery. 

Attorney James Ellenson

Click here to read the federal indictment.

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