Teen in Waseca school attack plot ends probation, takes felony on record

- 19-year-old John LaDue walked out of the Waseca County Courthouse Tuesday with a mixed future.  He was fully free of the probation conditions he and his family felt were far too restrictive to move ahead with rebuilding his life.  But, he will now permanently carry the label of convicted felon.

“He’s realized that in this modern age, he wears a scarlet letter,” LaDue’s public defender, Jeff Johnson, explained.  “All somebody has to do is go on Google, type in his name, and they know all about him.”

In other words, LaDue feels that even if he worked hard to shed the felony label through ten years of probation, that it would not matter. And in the meantime, the conditions of probation were proving difficult.

LaDue was arrested in April 2014 in a storage shed in Waseca, Minn. Around him were the components of bombs.  Police quickly outlined an alleged plot to kill his family, then launch an attack on the junior and senior high schools.  But, there was not enough evidence to prove that LaDue ever intended to carry any of it out, and under Minnesota law the acts of preparing are not always enough to prove that intent.

Last fall, LaDue pled guilty to a single felony count of possessing explosives.  By January, he had already served the required 639 days, in fact going over by one day.  He agreed to 10 years of probation, after which the conviction would be reduced to a misdemeanor on his record.

He spent four months in a state mental health facility, released in May when it was determined his depression was under control and he no longer presented a threat.  He came home to Waseca under a long list of probation conditions and a mixed reception from people in town.

“I understand there’s been some Facebook, as usual, and other things in the community regarding John,” Johnson said. ”And I think that’s something the judge touched on in his original statement of the community needing to come together and support him and not ostracize him.”

LaDue and his father appeared in court for the brief five minute hearing.  He agreed to “execute the sentence,” which means they would officially put the felony conviction in the record and end the probation.  The probation terms, including constant supervision, regular therapy sessions and random searches and polygraph tests, the family has said were proving difficult to juggle with trying to go to school and find work.

LaDue and his attorney figured working to get the felony reduced ten years from now simply was not worth it, hoping by then he had moved on anyway.  And figuring his past would never go away regardless.

“And he’s made the decision after being in the community,” Johnson said. "That no matter how hard he works at this, no matter what he does, he will be viewed the same way.”

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