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Waseca teen who threatened to bomb school may serve some home probation

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John LaDue leaves the Waseca County Courthouse
John LaDue leaves the Waseca County Courthouse after a hearing Jan. 6, in Waseca, Minn.
Pat Christman | The Free Press via AP

The Waseca, Minn., teen accused of planning a school shooting in 2014 may be back at his parents' home next week. 

By next Thursday, 19-year-old John LaDue will have served his full jail sentence for felony possession of an explosive device. If a bed doesn't open up at a state-run evaluation facility before then, LaDue may have to serve some of his probation at home, a move that defense and prosecuting attorneys are calling "Plan C."

Last year, a Waseca County judge sentenced LaDue to probation for up to 10 years and treatment at a secure autism facility. He was set to go to Georgia, but a facility there did not accept him for reasons never publicly made clear. 

Earlier this month, the attorneys came up with "Plan B." LaDue was to remain in the Waseca County jail until a bed opened up at an appropriate treatment facility in Minnesota. The problem is, there are only 12 such beds in the state, all full. And on Jan. 28, LaDue has to be freed. 

The dilemma shines a light on the need for more mental health evaluation facilities in the state, said LaDue's attorney and public defender Jeff Johnson.

"What happens is people go into the facility, they get evaluated, and the other reality is it becomes a log jam because they get evaluated and here they're assessed their needs and many times they can't get out of there because the next level of need is also filled up," Johnson said.

The decision to prosecute LaDue as an adult instead of a juvenile contributed to the situation, he added. 

David LaDue, father of John LaDue
David LaDue, father of John LaDue, speaks to reporters outside the Waseca County Courthouse after his son's plea hearing on Sept. 18, 2015.
Pat Christman | The Free Press via AP 2015

"We are equipped in the adult world to punish people. The juvenile system is made for getting young people rehabilitated. So that decision made it so we had a lot less options on what we were going to do with John," he said.

LaDue's father, David LaDue, welcomed the outcome. 

"I'm very happy about it. It's like 20 months and three weeks, and six days overdue as far as I'm concerned," he said.

The terms of LaDue's probation would essentially put him under house arrest, said Waseca County Attorney Brenda Miller. That means he won't be allowed to leave the house unless it's for a medical appointment, counseling or a meeting with his probation officer. The home cannot have any firearms and LaDue can't access the Internet. 

Judge Joseph Chase is expected to order the state to find a bed by Jan. 28, Miller added.

David LaDue said he hopes that order is disregarded so his son doesn't leapfrog to the top of the waiting list. 

"If there's 12 of these beds available in the state, how fair is it to put John at the head of the line?" he asked. "Anyone that's on that list I'm sure needs to be."

The pending release is only the latest unexpected outcome in a troubled prosecution.

LaDue originally faced four counts of attempted murder, two counts of attempted criminal damage to property and six counts of possession of explosive devices. 

Chase dismissed the more serious attempted murder and criminal damage to property charges in July. That led to a deal in which LaDue pleaded guilty to one count of possessing explosives and prosecutors dropped the five remaining similar charges. 

One student at the high school expressed concern today about LaDue's possible return home but most people in the community want LaDue to get help, said Waseca Public Schools Superintendent Thomas Lee. He predicted LaDue's actions will shape the community's response. 

"If John actually follows through and does go to the treatment facility and does get some treatment, I think that will help a lot of folks feel more comfortable about that," Lee said.

David LaDue acknowledged some residents may be unhappy if John returns home. 

"They have a right to be frightened if they're determined to be frightened," he said. "I just hope nobody comes over and causes any problems or vandalizes any of our property. That's really all I'm concerned about."

Even when a state-operated evaluation center can admit LaDue, he'll be there only temporarily.  Experts will have to decide where and when he can go for the long term treatment required under his sentence. 

Johnson said his client wants to seek the treatment he needs and plans to continue his agreement to go on probation.