SEATTLE — Raymond Fryberg apologized on Monday for the actions of his son on Oct. 24, 2014.
Fryberg, 42, spoke in court about the Marysville Pilchuck High School shootings and the role played by his son, Jaylen. He did so as part of an effort to persuade a federal judge to give him probation instead of prison time for illegally possessing firearms, including the handgun Jaylen used to kill four of his friends and wound another before committing suicide.
Raymond Fryberg was not allowed to have guns, the result of a 2002 domestic-violence protection order filed by a former girlfriend.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge James Robart pressed Fryberg on his consistent claims that he didn’t know he was restricted from owning guns, noting that Fryberg signed paperwork to that effect in Tulalip Tribal Court years ago.
Fryberg was sentenced Monday to two years in federal prison, with three years of probation to follow. He will be required to surrender sometime next month. His attorney, John Henry Browne, said he plans to ask the court to allow Fryberg to remain free on bail pending an appeal.
“You cannot punish him any more than he’s already been punished,” Browne said.
Fryberg told Robart that he doesn’t “condone any of the things my son did. It’s a tragedy.”
He had spent time with the young people lost and he prays for them, he said. “I wake up with the same broken heart every day,” he said.
Fryberg said he is needed at home to shepherd his surviving children and grandchildren.
“We do our best, all of us, to gather our young ones and our families and keep them together and at times pretend to be strong. I’m sorry for what my son did,” he said.
Prosecutors had sought the maximum time allowed by law, just short of three years. They described Fryberg as someone with no regard for the law. They noted that other women have accused him of violence.
Browne described Fryberg as a family man devoted to helping young people on the reservation, a man grieving and focused on keeping his family together despite tremendous loss and endless scrutiny.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ye-Ting Woo argued that if Fryberg had not broken gun laws, “these families would not have lost their children, or have a child with deep psychological and emotional scars.”
The judge also declined a request from the defense to exclude letters from the victims’ families being considered at sentencing.
Lahneen Fryberg is the mother of Andrew Fryberg, who was 15 years old when he was killed. She wanted an apology, she said.
“This defendant and his family make it perfectly clear we are not part of the family,” she said. “We are broken as a family. We are incomplete.”
Denise Hatch, the mother of Nate Hatch, who survived a gunshot wound to the jaw, told the court that in the 15 months since the shootings Raymond Fryberg has not apologized, and that lack of apology has divided the Tulalip community. Nate deserved an apology, she said.
Browne told the judge the letters from the victims’ families came from a place of “animosity and hysteria, some of it understandable.” He said Raymond Fryberg wanted to apologize but was told to stay away. He also cited a civil claim filed last week by the families, seeking up to $110 million in damages from the Marysville School District and Fryberg.
Robart interrupted both Browne and Fryberg in court to ask about the protection order and the forms Fryberg completed to buy firearms. The judge said it seemed as if Fryberg “isn’t willing to accept” his status as someone not allowed to have guns. When asked about restrictions while buying guns, Fryberg “nonetheless checked no, no, no, multiple times,” the judge said.
“Your client’s conduct was, apparently, he didn’t feel he was subject to a protection order,” the judge said. “I am troubled by that.”
Robart also said he took into consideration that Fryberg bought guns between 2012 and 2014, when he wasn’t paying fines ordered by Tulalip Tribal Court. That was “a sign of disrespect for the tribal legal system,” the judge said. The high school shooting was not mentioned during trial, and was not part of the sentencing decision, Robart said.
Before ending the hearing on Monday, Robart urged tribal members in the audience to open the lines of communication and come together to heal. He noted how the victims’ families and the supporters of Raymond Fryberg kept their distance in the courtroom, sitting on opposite sides throughout the trial.
That divide “has to end,” Robart said.
In a government press conference held after the hearing, U.S. Attorney Annette Hayes said the “strong sentence” will hold Fryberg accountable.
“He is without question being held responsible for repeatedly and blatantly violating federal firearms laws,” she said. Fryberg, and others like him pose an “unacceptable risk,” she said.
Hayes has met with the families of the victims of the high-school shooting. “One of those firearms played a devastating role in that crime,” she said.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org.