Left: Deja Taylor (via ABC News screengrab). Right: Abigail Zwerner ( Abigail Zwerner (via GoFundMe screengrab).

The mother of the six-year-old Virginia boy who shot his teacher with a handgun he had brought to school with him from home will plead guilty to federal gun and drug charges.

Deja Taylor, 26, is the mother of the first grader who shot teacher Abigail Zwerner on Jan. 6 at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia. Zwerner suffered injuries described as “life-threatening” and is still recovering.

Now, according to federal court filings, Taylor is accused of being “an unlawful user of a controlled substance” — specifically, marijuana — while “knowingly possess[ing] a firearm,” according to federal court documents. She is also accused of lying on federal paperwork she filled out to buy a gun.

“On or about July 19, 2022, in the Eastern District of Virginia, [Taylor] … knowingly made a false and fictitious written statement to Winfree Firearms,” a criminal information filed Monday says. Specifically, according to prosecutors, Taylor “did execute a [federal form] to the effect that she was not ‘an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance’ … when in fact as she then knew, she was an unlawful user of marijuana.”

Taylor has also been charged at the state level with felony child neglect and misdemeanor recklessly leaving a loaded firearm so as to endanger a child. She has said that her son “suffers from an acute disability;” up until the day of the shooting, he was required to attend school with one of his parents as part of his individualized education plan.

That requirement was not in effect on the day of the shooting.

Taylor has apologized for her son’s actions, saying she is “obviously willing to take responsibility for him because he can’t take responsibility for himself.” She has also said she doesn’t know how her son got a hold of the firearm, as the last time she saw it, it was locked up.

The federal charges against Taylor carry a potential combined penalty of 25 years in prison.

Taylor’s lawyer said in a statement that the criminal information has been filed pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement with federal prosecutors.

“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,” attorney James Ellenson said in a statement. “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.”

Ellenson said the specific terms of the agreement will be disclosed when Taylor enters her guilty plea at a hearing scheduled for Monday, June 12. He said that the agreement is “fair to all parties.”

“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,” Ellenson’s statement says. “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,” Ellenson added.

Although the use and possession of marijuana remain illegal under federal law, possession of small amounts of marijuana is legal in the state of Virginia.

Civil libertarians have criticized the federal charges against Taylor, who legally purchased the firearm. But while dual prosecutions at both the state and federal levels are not ordinarily pursued, federal prosecutors may file charges if there is a “strong public interest that they feel isn’t sufficiently vindicated by the state result,” former federal prosecutor Michael Harwin told Law&Crime. Harwin added that certain questions may linger even after state action.

Federal prosecutors may feel that a particular interest may not have been properly addressed by the state prosecution, for example.

“Prosecutors look for two kinds of deterrence: specific (the mom learned her lesson) and general (the public should be aware of what happens if you leave a kid around guns),” Harwin explained.

Zwerner has sued the Newport News School Board and school administrators, alleging they ignored several warnings of the boy’s potential violence that day. The school has responded that the risk of gun violence is an expected part of a teacher’s job.

Read the federal criminal information against Taylor below.

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