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Mother of 6-year-old who shot his teacher sentenced to 2 years in prison for child neglect

By Brian Todd, Carma Hassan and Alaa Elassar, CNN

(CNN) — The mother of the Virginia 6-year-old who shot his first grade teacher in January was sentenced Friday to two years in prison, according to the court in Newport News.

Deja Taylor had pleaded guilty to a state charge of felony child neglect in August. Taylor’s attorney, James Ellenson, told CNN the Commonwealth had recommended a six-month sentence. He says they do not plan to appeal the state sentence.

“I think it is excessive and harsh,” Ellenson said about the sentence from Circuit Court Judge Christopher Papile.

In addition to the two-year sentence, Taylor is serving 21 months for two federal felony charges, the unlawful use of a controlled substance while possessing a firearm and making a false statement while purchasing the firearm.

Ellenson says he believes the judge wanted the sentence to reflect the child neglect charge was a more serious one than the federal charges. Taylor was very upset when the sentence was given Friday and cried in court, according to Ellenson.

Taylor’s son, who is now 7, used her gun to shoot his teacher, Abigail Zwerner, on January 6 at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, leaving her with wounds to her hand and chest.

Teacher who was shot reads statement in court

Zwerner was present at Friday’s sentencing and recounted the shooting and her long road to recovery in the same emotional victim statement she had previously read at Taylor’s federal sentencing.

“The boy pointed the gun directly at me and shot. The single bullet went through my left hand and lodged into my upper left chest, leaving traces of bullet fragments in both areas that will remain forever,” Zwerner said. “When this happened and emergency responders worked to keep me alive, I was not sure whether it would be my final moment on earth.”

Zwerner 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.

Zwerner noted she’s had five surgeries and many physical therapy appointments to restore movement in her hand. She also described the stress the shooting has had on her family who’s had to help care for her as well as the financial toll it’s taken in the form of medical bills.

“I lost myself following the shooting. I could barely communicate with my friends and family,” Zwerner said. “This permanent damage should never have been allowed to happen to me and would not have happened if not for the defendant’s actions or lack thereof.”

Taylor had purchased the gun used in the shooting and kept it on the top shelf of her bedroom closet, secured by a trigger lock, Ellenson told CNN in January. But in their search of Taylor’s residence, authorities found no trigger lock and no key to a trigger lock, prosecutors said in court in August.

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 Zwerner.

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