SEATTLE — The father of the Washington state teenager who fatally shot four high school classmates and then himself in October pleaded not guilty in federal court on Thursday to five new firearms charges.
Raymond Lee Fryberg's lawyer, John Henry Brown, called the new charges "ridiculous" and said federal prosecutors were charging him for guns that he voluntarily turned over to the police under the terms of his release. He also said the state of Washington had given Fryberg a concealed weapons permit in 2013, and was never told he can't possess a gun.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ye-Ting Woo disputed that claim after Thursday's hearing in U.S. District Court. She said five of the guns were found when police searched his home in March, before his arrest. She said the handgun used by Fryberg's son was taken by police after the shooting and the four others were identified by sales records at Cabela's, where he bought the guns.
Fryberg remains out of custody awaiting his trial, which is scheduled for Aug. 31.
Fryberg was charged on March 30 with one count of illegally possessing the gun that his son, 15-year-old Jaylen Fryberg, used in the Marysville-Pilchuck High School shooting that left one wounded and five dead, including the shooter. He pleaded not guilty to that charge the next day.
The original complaint said Fryberg was the subject a permanent domestic violence protection order issued by the Tulalip Tribal Court in 2002 and was prohibited from possessing firearms. The complaint said when Fryberg bought the gun at Cabela's, he filled out an Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives form and answered "no" when asked if he was the subject of a "court order restraining you from harassing, stalking, or threatening your child or an intimate partner."
Woo said the 2002 protection order had been secured by a woman Fryberg was involved with and a child they shared.
Last week, federal prosecutors filed a new indictment charging Fryberg on six counts, including one count for the gun used in the shooting. Four counts are for guns purchased on a certain day at Cabela's and the sixth count lists five rifles found in his home.
After the brief arraignment, Brown said the new charges were politically motivated.
"This is being driven by the tribal police, who are on the side of the families who lost kids," Brown said. "It's now become a political matter. It's out of the U.S. attorney's hands. They're being told what to do."
Emily Langlie, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Seattle, said that was not the case.
"The case is being investigated by the FBI," she said. "We base our charging decisions on the criminal conduct and the evidence. The charging decisions rest with the U.S. Attorney's Office."
Brown said the shooting has created a deep, emotional divide among members of the Tulalip Tribe. He said Fryberg has been the victim of recent attacks: all of the windows of his home were broken last month and yesterday someone broke all of the windows in his truck.
Brown said Fryberg didn't know he was not allowed to have firearms, because tribal court protection orders do not include that restriction.
"This is not like a domestic violence protection order in state court or district court because those automatically go into a computer and they say on it, you can't have a weapon," Brown said.
Adding to that confusion, Brown said, was that at every turn, Fryberg was told he was OK to possess a gun.
Fryberg was given a concealed pistol permit by the Washington State Department of Licensing on Jan. 14, 2013, Brown said, showing a reporter the signed form.
The state licensing website explains the process for securing a concealed weapons permit. It lists the documents required and says "the law enforcement agency will fingerprint you and conduct a background check before you can be issued a license." The license is valid for five years.
Fryberg's permit was in effect during the dates listed in the federal indictment for when Fryberg possessed or purchased guns.
"He had no idea he wasn't supposed to have a gun. In fact everything told him the opposite," Brown said. When Fryberg was out hunting, he was stopped by the police who checked his license and presumably ran a check on him, Brown said, but the protection order issue never came up.
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