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Father of Washington high school shooter pleads not guilty to illegally having gun

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SEATTLE — The father of the Washington teenager who fatally shot four high school classmates and then himself in October pleaded not guilty in federal court to illegally possessing the gun used in the slayings.

Raymond Lee Fryberg Jr., who was arraigned Thursday, was the subject of a permanent domestic violence protection order that had been issued by the Tulalip Tribal Court in 2002. Federal law prohibits a person who is under a protection order from having firearms. A federal grand jury issued an indictment on April 8 charging him with a single count of unlawful possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.

Fryberg was released from custody on the condition that he attends his court hearings and stays away from guns. He appeared in court flanked by eight friends and family members. He declined to speak with reporters.

Some members of the shooting victims' families attended the hearing, escorted and supported by an FBI victim specialist, according to FBI spokeswoman Ayn Dietrich.

Fryberg purchased a Beretta pistol on Jan. 11, 2013, from a gun shop on the reservation, according to the criminal complaint. He answered "no" on the federal firearms purchasing form when asked if he was the subject of a restraining order that prohibits him from "harassing, stalking or threatening your child or an intimate partner," the complaint said.

PHOTO: Family members and supporters of Raymond Lee Fryberg Jr. (not shown) walk toward the Federal Courthouse in Seattle, Thursday, April 16, 2015. Fryberg, the father of Jaylen Fryberg, the student who fatally shot four of his high school classmates and himself in October, 2014, pleaded not guilty on Thursday to illegally possessing the gun his son used in the slayings. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Family members and supporters of Raymond Lee Fryberg Jr. (not shown) walk toward the Federal Courthouse in Seattle, Thursday, April 16, 2015. Fryberg, the father of Jaylen Fryberg, the student who fatally shot four of his high school classmates and himself in October, 2014, pleaded not guilty on Thursday to illegally possessing the gun his son used in the slayings. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Fryberg lawyer, John Henry Browne, said previously in an email to The Associated Press that "there was never an order prohibiting him from owning or even purchasing firearms" from the tribal court. The issue in court will be whether he lied on the federal purchasing form, Browne said.

Michael Lee, a lawyer with Browne's firm who attended the arraignment, said after the hearing that "there is a distinction between what comes from a state court and a tribal court" in terms of restrictions placed on the subject of the order. Lee said they would secure the tribal order through discovery to make that point.

Fryberg's son, 15-year-old Jaylen Fryberg, used the gun to kill four friends and wound another in the cafeteria of the Marysville-Pilchuck High School on Oct. 24, 2014.

Had the protection order been filed in a state court instead of the tribal court, it would have been entered into a criminal records database and would have surfaced during a background check when Raymond Fryberg purchased the gun. But the order was never entered into any state or federal criminal databases because of a flawed reporting system between tribes and outside authorities.

Tribes have long called on the federal government to fix this problem or provide access to the databases so they can enter the orders themselves. After The Associated Press reported on the problem last week, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it would host a conference in August with the tribes to try to resolve the problem.

If Fryberg is convicted on the charge, he faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Alice Theiler set his trial for June. 22.


Follow Martha Bellisle at https://twitter.com/marthabellisle

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PHOTO: Family members and supporters of Raymond Lee Fryberg Jr. (not shown) walk toward the Federal Courthouse in Seattle, Thursday, April 16, 2015. Fryberg, the father of Jaylen Fryberg, the student who fatally shot four of his high school classmates and himself in October, 2014, pleaded not guilty on Thursday to illegally possessing the gun his son used in the slayings. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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