A Philadelphia mom who faced hard time after bringing a registered gun across the New Jersey border will be allowed to enter a program that could spare her a prison sentence after a ruling late Wednesday.
Shaneen Allen, a 27-year-old mother of two who was arrested last year after being stopped on the Atlantic City Expressway and told police she had the gun and a Pennsylvania conceal-carry permit, faced up to three years in prison in New Jersey, where gun laws are among the strictest in the nation. But the state Attorney General’s office issued a clarification of the rules governing pre-trial intervention to ensure that Allen would be eligible.
“It’s a great day for my client and also for gun rights in New Jersey,” Allen’s attorney, Evan Nappen, of Eatontown, told FoxNews.com. “It’s a victory for all of those similarly situated, and that was very important to Shaneen.”
The case drew national attention, in part because the same Atlantic County prosecutor and judge who signed off on pre-trial intervention for former NFL star Ray Rice, who knocked his then-fiancee out in an Atlantic City hotel elevator, denied the opportunity to Allen.
“The Ray Rice case presented a very stark contrast between someone on video committing an act of extreme violence getting into this diversionary program, and Shaneen, whose only mistake was to cross the Ben Franklin Bridge Bridge [into New Jersey] and faced up to five years in prison.”
Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain initially denied Allen pretrial intervention, saying a 2008 directive that expanded the state's Graves Act did not allow fit in her case.
But acting state Attorney General John Hoffman released a clarification to state prosecutors Wednesday making pretrial intervention an option in cases involving people caught in New Jersey with guns that were legal in their home states.
"In most of these cases, imprisonment is neither necessary nor appropriate to serve the interests of justice and protect public safety," Hoffman wrote.
McClain moved quickly after the ruling.
"In applying the factors set out in the clarification, I determined that the defendant in this case should be offered the opportunity to be admitted into the Atlantic County PTI Program," McClain said. "I have communicated that determination to the court and defense counsel."
Gov. Chris Christie, a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016, had been asked previously about the case and indicated that he would let it play out in the system before intervening, if at all. The change came as Allen was facing a trial next month, and Nappen noted that Hoffman serves in Christie’s administration.
“Whether or not Christie had a role, I don’t know,” Nappen said. “But I hope so, because it was the right thing to do.”
Allen, whose .380 Bersa Thunder handgun was loaded with hollow point bullets when she was arrested early on Oct. 1, 2013, had no criminal record. She was charged with unlawful possession of a weapon and possession of hollow-point bullets.
Allen had only owned the gun for a week prior to the arrest, Nappen said, and purchased it for her protection after being robbed twice in the past year.
Earlier this month, as the Rice case was making headlines, Allen told FoxNews.com she couldn’t help but notice a disparity in her treatment and Rice’s.
“That’s not justice for me or my children,” said Allen, a single mom of twosons, Niaire, 10, and Sincere, 3. “What makes Ray Rice so different from me that I couldn’t be accepted by the same prosecutor and judge? Is it that he was a pro athlete but I’m a single mother of two?”
Fox News' Joshua Rhett Miller contributed to this report.