NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) — Despite multiple failed drug tests, a judge on Thursday rejected a prosecutor’s request to revoke the bond of the mother of a 6-year-old who shot his teacher in Virginia While awaiting sentencing on a federal weapons charge for using marijuana while in possession of a firearm.
U.S. Judge Douglas Miller said during a hearing in U.S. District Court that Deja Taylor could remain free on bail despite failing drug tests because she has made efforts to reform.
Taylor’s son shot her gun at teacher Abby Zwerner in her Newport News classroom in January. The first grader was seriously injured and has undergone several operations.
Taylor pleaded guilty in June for consuming marijuana while in possession of a firearm. Authorities say she also lied about her drug use on a federal background check form when she bought the gun her son brought to school.
A judge had set a sentencing date of Oct. 18 and released Taylor on bail on the condition that she submit to a drug test and receive addiction treatment. But Taylor tested positive for marijuana twice and once for cocaine, federal prosecutors wrote in a court filing this month. She also missed two drug tests and two drug treatment sessions, they said.
“These violations are serious and call into question the defendant’s danger to the community, respect for the law and the orders of this court,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lisa McKeel and Peter Osyf.
James Ellenson, an attorney for Taylor, argued against incarceration, saying Taylor had made “significant positive developments.”
She has taken four more drug tests since Aug. 25, Ellenson said. And although they tested positive for marijuana, “the levels are declining, indicating that Ms. Taylor is abstaining from this drug,” Ellenson wrote in a court filing.
After the judge ruled Thursday that Taylor can remain free on bond, attorney Gene Rossi, who also represents Taylor, said she “has many challenges in her life, including her battle with addiction.”
“She is struggling, like millions of other citizens in the United States,” Rossi said. “We hope the compassion the judge showed her today will be repeated at her sentencing in October. Miss Taylor has incredible compassion for the teacher who was shot by her 6-year-old boy.”
As part of a plea deal in the case, prosecutors agreed to ask the judge for a prison sentence of 18 to 24 months.
Marijuana is legal in many US states, including Virginia. However, it is still a controlled substance under U.S. law, which, among other things, generally prohibits the possession of a weapon by anyone who has been convicted of a felony, been committed to a mental institution, or is illegally using controlled substances.
During searches following the shooting at Richneck Elementary School, authorities found marijuana in the homes where Taylor lived.
Meanwhile, Taylor still faces sentencing State charge of child neglect, which was filed after the shooting. The verdict is scheduled to be announced on October 27th. In this case, prosecutors agreed to seek a sentence consistent with state guidelines, expected to be no more than six months. Prosecutors also agreed to drop a charge of reckless storage of a firearm.
It is Zwerner, the teacher who was shot sue the school system for $40 million. She accuses the school administration of gross negligence and disregarding several warnings on the day of the shooting that the boy had a gun at school.