The New Jersey judge who denied Shaneen Allen's motion to dismiss charges filed against her in October for illegal possession of a firearm is the same one who gave Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice a pass on charges that he assaulted his fiancee.
Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Michael Donio on Wednesday accepted prosecutor Jim McClain's decision to deny Allen entry into a pretrial diversion program for first-time offenders and ruled that she must stand trial.
Allen, a 27-year-old mother of two from Philadelphia, obtained a .38-caliber Bersa Thunder handgun and a concealed-carry permit last year after being robbed twice. While driving in New Jersey in October, she was pulled over for a traffic offense and informed the police officer she had the permit and weapon.
She was arrested and charged with illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition because New Jersey doesn't recognize Pennsylvania's concealed-carry permits.
Allen, who doesn’t have a criminal record, now faces a minimum of three years in prison.
But both Donio and McClain had a different view of Rice's case after the star football player was accused of beating his fiancee in an elevator until she was unconscious (and was caught on a security camera dragging her out of the elevator moments later). They accepted his request to enter the diversion program, allowing him to avoid having a criminal record.
Washington Post blogger Radley Balko, who has closely followed the case, criticized the prosecutor’s refusal to allow leniency for Allen.
“The people responsible for the gun violence in New Jersey are not residents of bordering states who have gone through the trouble of obtaining a legal permit in their home states,” Balko wrote. “The people responsible for gun violence in New Jersey don’t volunteer to police that they’re carrying a weapon.”
Bryan Miller, executive director of a religious group that supports gun control, told philly.com that he felt Allen’s case would deter others from purchasing guns.
"Fortunately, the notoriety of this case will make it less likely Pennsylvanians will carry concealed and loaded handguns in New Jersey, thereby making them and the Garden State safer from gun violence," Miller said.
“[T]he people responsible for the gun violence in New Jersey are not going to be deterred by a story about a single mom sent off to prison for an honest mistake,” Balko wrote. “Sending Shaneen Allen to prison will ruin Shaneen Allen’s life. It will also ruin the lives of her children. And that is all it will do.”
McClain and Donio could have used the same discretion in Allen's case as they used with Rice. They could have allowed Allen to enter the diversion program for first-time offenders that would have kept her out of jail and kept a felony conviction off her criminal record. And McClain could have treated the incident as a misdemeanor or refused to file criminal charges.
But they didn’t. They're throwing the book at her. And that's not fair.