The same prosecutor who let professional football star Ray Rice avoid a trial after beating his wife unconscious are pushing forward with the prosecution of Shaneen Allen, a single mother who carried a gun into New Jersey without realizing her Pennsylvania permit didn't apply there.
Allen, a mother of two from Philadelphia, was driving in New Jersey last fall when she was pulled over by a police officer. She informed the officer she had a handgun in her purse and a Pennsylvania license-to-carry permit, at which point the officer arrested her and charged her with a felony for unlawful possession of a weapon, because New Jersey does not recognize out-of-state gun permits.
Allen tried to avoid a trial and jail time by applying to a pre-trial intervention program in New Jersey for first-time offenders. Ray Rice, the Baltimore Ravens running back who knocked his then-fiancee unconscious during an altercation in Atlantic City in February, was accepted into the program in May.
But Atlantic County prosecutor Jim McClain, the same prosecutor who allowed Rice to avoid prosecution, denied Allen's application to the program on Wednesday.
Allen, 27, cried for a moment in the hallway with her son Naiare and his father after a judge denied her motion to dismiss weapons charges filed against her in October and refused to overturn a prosecutor's decision to deny her entry into a first-time-offender diversion program.
So Allen walked back into court, turned down a plea deal that would have given her a 3 1/2-year sentence and decided to go to trial in October, hoping a jury would use some common sense and not send a working mother of two to prison for not knowing New Jersey's gun laws.
Allen has no criminal record, and she claims she bought the gun for self-defense after being robbed. Her trial is scheduled for October.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article suggested that Superior Court Judge Michael Donio and prosecutor Jim McClain were equally responsible for admitting Ray Rice into the first-time offenders program and denying Allen's application. In fact, the onus is almost entirely on the attorney to admit or deny someone entry into the program. The judge can only overturn the decision if the prosecutor has egregiously abused his discretion, which is a very difficult standard to meet.