Deja Nicole Taylor was sentenced to 21 months in prison Nov. 15 in connection to her son shooting his first-grade teacher in Newport News, Virginia, earlier this year.
U.S. District Judge Mark S. Davis hammered down Taylor’s sentence for using marijuana while owning a firearm and lying about her drug use, according to the New York Times. The publication detailed that recreational marijuana use is legal in Virginia, but federal law prohibits addicted drug users from owning a gun.
The crime is a felony in the United States, and investigators reportedly found almost an ounce of the substance in Taylor’s bedroom, along with proof of frequent drug use, reported the Associated Press. Federal prosecutors claimed Taylor’s “chronic, persistent and… life-affecting abuse [extended] this case far beyond any occasional and/or recreational use.”
During the fateful Nov. 15 court date, Judge Davis reportedly stated that there was a “direct line” linking Taylor’s marijuana use and gun ownership with her child getting access to her 9 mm handgun and his teacher, Abby Zwerner, being seriously wounded.
“This case cries for a sentence of imprisonment,” said Judge Davis.
The presiding official added that other children in Zwerner’s first-grade class at Richneck Elementary School would have to deal with the trauma of the harrowing January 2023 incident “for the rest of their lives.”
Taylor’s lawyer, Gene Rossi, called into the sentencing by phone to speak on behalf of his client. The attorney noted that the 26-year-old lives with “severe addiction issues and mental health challenges.”
Rossi said Taylor was “contrite about the unintended consequences of her actions.” He added that the young mother “feels incredibly remorseful and has a deep sense of guilt.”
Zwerner was shot in the hand and chest and suffered a punctured lung and broken bones. Ahead of Taylor’s sentencing, the teacher recalled the traumatic aftermath she’s endured since being shot.
The educator, who’s since quit the Newport News Public Schools system, said she spent two weeks in the hospital after the shooting and since suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, reported the Associated Press.
Zwerner added that she’s suffered “massive financial loss.”
“I feel as if I’ve lost my purpose – I loved children,” she said. “I contend daily with deep emotional scars.”
Taylor awaits her December sentencing regarding her felony child neglect charge.
Her son now lives with a male relative named Calvin Taylor, and conflicting reports state he is either the child’s grandfather or great-grandfather.
Now seven years old, the child is reportedly “doing wonderful” and was recently named “star student of the week,” according to the familial patriarch.
Zwerner filed a $40 million lawsuit in April against the Newport News Public Schools system for allegedly ignoring her warnings about the child’s behavior and that he had a gun the day she was shot. The trial date for her lawsuit is reportedly set for sometime in January 2025.
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