In a brief hearing Tuesday, Judge Joseph Chase granted John LaDue’s request to end his probation, closing a case that drew national attention to this small southern Minnesota town.
The request, which leaves the Waseca 19-year-old with a felony, came almost three months after Chase agreed to modify LaDue’s probation, and allowed him to leave a treatment facility and move into his parents’ home.
LaDue, who was charged in April 2014 with four counts of attempted murder, two of attempted property damage and six counts of possessing explosives after police found him in a storage locker with bomb-making materials, and a journal describing plans to kill his family and conduct a massacre at his school, said that he’d been branded on the internet, that probation had become especially burdensome and made it almost impossible to move on with his life.
The attempt charges were dismissed by a Waseca County District Court judge, a decision later affirmed by the state Appellate Court. In October 2015, LaDue was sentenced to 10 years probation after pleading guilty to one count of possessing explosives. But because it took weeks to find a bed in a state mental health treatment facility, LaDue served the his full 21 month-sentence, either in a juvenile treatment facility or the Waseca County Jail.
LaDue actually served one day longer than the maximum allowed, and the judge had no choice but to grant the request.
“Primarily, I don’t expect it to pay off in the long run,” LaDue said last week of probation.
LaDue is now in school taking welding classes and wants to become a pipe fitter, but says frequent visits to therapists and with his probation officer were making that difficult.
He only recently got a driver’s permit, so family members needed to shuttle him to class and appointments, another imposition, said LaDue’s father, David LaDue.
“John’s fulfilled his obligation to society,” LaDue’s attorney, Jeff Johnson, the Third Judicial District’s chief public defender, said following the hearing. “He sat one more day than was required by law.”
When asked about his client’s decision, Johnson said LaDue quickly realized he’d been marked with a scarlet letter.
“No matter how hard he works, no matter what he does, he’ll be viewed the same way.
“In the end for him it wasn’t worth the 10 years.”
LaDue is now free of all probationary restrictions, including mental heath treatment, and limited access to the internet and videos. He will need to stay away from Waseca Public Schools property after being given a no trespass letter just prior to the hearing. If LaDue goes onto school district grounds he could be arrested.
Prosecutors initially thought LaDue would need to be processed at a state prison before being released, but found that since he’d completed his sentence that wasn’t the case.
Waseca County Attorney Brenda Miller, who pressed for the most serious charges against LaDue and worked to have him tried as an adult, declined to comment following the hearing.
Both David and John LaDue quickly left the Waseca County courthouse after the hearing.
David LaDue, who had previously said he isn’t planning to leave Waseca, on Tuesday set up a gofundme page asking area residents to help pay for the family to move. He’s asking for $262,500.
“If the fundraising goal is reached, I will immediately relocate my family at least one hour driving time away from Waseca County.
“This gives the community the opportunity to participate in our swift relocation, if that is what they truly desire. A mere $26.25 per person at 10,000 participants will be all I require to make our absence a reality. This is YOUR chance to put your money where some of your mouths and hearts are!”