Mother of 6-year-old boy who shot his teacher is sentenced to 21 months in prison for federal offenses

Nov 16, 2023, 6:30 AM

Deja Taylor arrives at the US courthouse in Newport News, Virginia, on Thursday, Sept. 21 with her ...

Deja Taylor arrives at the US courthouse in Newport News, Virginia, on Thursday, Sept. 21 with her attorney James Ellenson. ( Billy Schuerman/The Virginian-Pilot/AP/FILE)

( Billy Schuerman/The Virginian-Pilot/AP/FILE)

(CNN) — The mother of the Virginia 6-year-old who shot his first-grade teacher in January was sentenced to 21 months in prison for federal felony offenses, a spokesperson with the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia told CNN Wednesday.

Deja Taylor pleaded guilty in June to two federal charges – the unlawful use of a controlled substance while possessing a firearm and making a false statement while purchasing the firearm –  as part of a plea deal with prosecutors. She was sentenced to 21 months on each count, and the judge ordered them to be served concurrently, according to her attorney.

Taylor’s 6-year-old son used her gun to shoot his 25-year-old teacher, Abigail Zwerner, on January 6 at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News. Zwerner was wounded in her hand and chest.

The judge ordered Taylor go directly to jail because she failed several drug tests while she was on “federal pre-trial services,” Taylor’s defense attorney James Ellenson told CNN.

She is being temporarily held at the Western Tidewater Regional Jail in Suffolk until the federal prisons bureau assigns her somewhere, her attorney said.

Zwerner was present at Wednesday’s sentencing and “gave a very moving victim impact statement,” Ellenson added.

Defense attorneys for Taylor had asked for a sentence of three years of probation “with special conditions, including home confinement and appropriate counseling,” according to a filing last week.

Additionally, Taylor has pleaded guilty to a state charge of felony child neglect. That charge has a maximum sentence of five years, but prosecutors have said they will not seek a punishment beyond the sentencing guidelines of six months.

She is expected to be sentenced for that on December 15, Ellenson said.

The boy, who Ellenson has said has “extreme emotional issues,” will not be criminally charged, according to prosecutors.

Taylor has no criminal record and has cooperated with authorities since the shooting, her defense attorney said. In a May interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” the mother accepted responsibility for the shooting and apologized to the child’s teacher.

Zwerner, meanwhile, has filed a $40 million lawsuit alleging Newport News Public Schools and administrators ignored warning signs and were aware of the student’s “history of random violence.”

The school board moved to dismiss the suit, but a judge earlier this month ruled it can move forward.

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Mother of 6-year-old boy who shot his teacher is sentenced to 21 months in prison for federal offenses