When A Protection From Abuse Order Leads to Gun Crimes—and Shooting Deaths

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Nov 15, 2022 | 0 Comments

In August 2022, a woman was sentenced for her participation in the shooting death of a Pennsylvania State Trooper. Emily Joy Gross, 37, did not fire the gun that killed 34-year-old Trooper Joshua Miller and injured Trooper Robert Lombardo, but she was found culpable in the matter. So, what did she do?

The Crimes Behind This Sentence

It all began in 2009 when Gross purchased a .9-millimeter weapon and gave it to one Daniel Autenrieth, who was prohibited from having a gun because of a protection from abuse (PFA) order filed by his ex-wife. Gross falsely claimed to be a PA resident in order to secure the purchase of the weapon, listing Autenrieth's address as her own on the required paperwork.

The situation escalated when Autenrieth led Troopers on a high-speed chase after abducting his son, who was nine years old at the time, from his ex-wife's home in Nazareth, PA. The chase ended with the shootout that killed Miller and injured Lombardo.

In June, Gross pleaded guilty to a third-degree felony firearms charge and was sentenced to 12- to 24 months in Pennsylvania state prison by Monroe County Judge Stephen Higgins.

Protection from Abuse Orders and Firearms

Gross's charges stem from the fact that she provided false information when purchasing the gun and that she gave it to someone who was not permitted to have a firearm. In the state of Pennsylvania, anyone listed in a PFA order is prohibited from purchasing or possessing weapons.

Protection from Abuse orders, also colloquially called restraining orders, are court-issued documents intended to prevent victims of domestic violence from being further harmed. A PFA order forbids the person named in it from contacting the person who filed it, whether in person, by voice or text, by social media or messaging apps, or through a third party.

Defendants who are served with PFA orders are additionally required to relinquish any weapons they already possess.

Although PFA orders are civil matters, their violation can result in charges of criminal contempt. Should the individual named in the order violate it—whether purposefully or inadvertently—and find themselves convicted of these charges, they will be facing up to six months in jail and a fine between $300 to $1,000. Possession of a firearm in such a situation will lead to additional charges.

The Problem of PFAs

Protection from Abuse orders are absolutely necessary to protect those who have been hurt by their partners, spouses, or other loved ones. But the system of issuing them is far from perfect. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous persons can falsely secure a PFA in order to achieve their own ends. In the context of a bitter divorce, for example, one party might accuse the other of abuse that never happened, to sway the judge in a custody battle.

We Can Help

If you are dealing with a situation related to a Protection From Abuse order, know that the Lento Law Firm, helmed by Joseph D. Lento, will fight hard to ensure that you get the help you need, all while treating you with trust and compassion. Contact the office today to get started. Call 888-535-3686, or tell us about your case here, and we'll schedule an introductory consultation.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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