Defense lawyer says Washington school shooter's father was never told he couldn't have guns
Prosecutors told jurors Tuesday that the father of the teenager who shot and killed four classmates and himself repeatedly lied on forms to illegally buy firearms. But the father's lawyer countered the man underwent multiple background checks and was never told he was barred from having guns.
Raymond Fryberg is charged with illegally owning the handgun his son, Jaylen, used last year in the Marysville-Pilchuck High School shootings. Prosecutors say Fryberg was the subject of a 2002 domestic-violence protection order, making it illegal for him to have that handgun and the nine rifles found in his possession.
During opening statements, Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Miyake told the jury Fryberg pleaded no contest in 2012 to violating that protection order. Fryberg bought the guns by answering "no" to a question on a firearms form about whether he was the subject of such an order.
He was caught only after FBI agents tried to find the Berretta's owner and traced it back to him, Miyake said.
The prosecutor didn't tell jurors that the FBI was investigating the gun used in the school shooting because U.S. District Judge James Robart has prohibited any mention of that tragedy during Fryberg's trial. Robart made that decision because Fryberg is not charged with what happened at the school.
Still, the raw emotions left from the shooting were visible in court: Fryberg's family filled one side of the courtroom, while family and friends of shooting victims lined the other side. Before the jury came in, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ye-Ting Woo said the victims' families were warned against engaging with Fryberg's side in front of the jury "to avoid any awkwardness."
Fryberg's lawyer, John Henry Browne, said neither his client nor the government knew the protection order existed. He listed a dozen times when law enforcement conducted background checks on Fryberg and gave him the OK.
Before Fryberg bought the guns, he applied for a concealed weapons permit, Browne said. That application triggered "one of the most intense background checks possible in this country," he said. Searches of state and federal databases failed to find any reason to withhold the permit, and the application was granted, Browne said.
On tribal hunting trips, Fryberg was stopped by game wardens who also ran his name through databases, "and they all came back negative," Browne said. "Now we have 10 to 15 occasions where he was told by authorities he was not prohibited from having firearms."
Browne said the problem started with the protection order, which was sought by Fryberg's former girlfriend, Jamie Gobin.
A judge granted Gobin the permanent order because Fryberg never appeared at a hearing to contest it. However, the defense contended Fryberg was never notified about the hearing.
The officer who claimed to notify Fryberg was married to Gobin's sister and reported serving the notice at a nonexistent address, Browne said.
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