Shaneen Allen is a 27 year old single mother of two, a phlebotomist who lives in Philadelphia and works two jobs to support her family. After being robbed (twice) and beaten she got some silly idea in her head that maybe she should be able to protect herself and her kids. She attended and passed an NRA firearms safety course, applied for and received a Pennsylvania permit to carry a concealed firearm, and purchased a .380 handgun which she carried in her purse.
A week later (October 1, 2013) Ms. Allen crossed the river into New Jersey and was stopped in Atlantic County for an unsafe lane change. It’s common practice — and was mentioned in her training course — that if you interact with a police officer it is not only polite but also very prudent to inform him/her that you are carrying a legal firearm, so she did.
NJ is a “may-issue” state for firearm carry, either openly or concealed, but does not have a reciprocity agreement with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Additionally, although her hollow-point ammunition ($6 a box cheaper) is legal to own in NJ it is not legal to have with you except when traveling to or from a gun range. Was Allen aware of this? She says no. Should she have been? She says yes. Well, she may have plenty of time to regret her victimless, honest mistake: the felony charges she faces carry a mandatory 42 month prison sentence. She goes to trial Oct. 6th.
The Garden State has some pretty strict gun laws, huh?
Of course, New Jersey also has a Pretrial Intervention Program (PTI). If PTI is successfully completed, there is no record of conviction and the defendant avoids jail time and the stigma of a criminal record. Sound familiar? It should: Atlantic County Prosecutor James McClain and Judge Michael Donio allowed NFL star Ray Rice (indicted for aggravated assault, domestic violence) to enter PTI after beating his fiancee unconsciousness in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino.
McClain is prosecuting Allen and Donio refused to overturn the Prosecutor’s Office decision that denied Shaneen Allen, who has no previous criminal record, the opportunity to enter PTI. Apparently New Jersey diversion programs are for woman-beating celebs, not women who carry a gun to keep men from beating them. Assistant Prosecutor Deborah Hays believes the case is “too serious to warrant divergence” to the intervention program.
In fairness, she was offered a plea bargain: plead guilty and get the minimum sentence. 3 1/2 years in prison, lose your career and your kids: sweet deal, huh?