Unconditional release of Vermont student in school threat case prompts concerns at Minnesota college
By Patrick Crowley,2023-06-08
Conditions of release were dropped this week for a Vermont student facing charges related to an alleged school threat in Minnesota, raising concerns at his former college.
Waylon Kurts, 21, was arrested in April in Northfield, Minnesota, for criminal threats and has been awaiting his next court date from his Vermont home. Prosecutors allege that Kurts was planning a “mass casualty event” at St. Olaf College, where Kurts was a student.
The Minnesota felony charges came with two levels of bail for Kurts’ case. For $100,000 bail, Kurts could be released under a set of conditions, including GPS monitoring and a prohibition from possessing guns. Kurts’ family met that bail amount in April, after which he left a jail in Rice County, Minnesota, and returned to Vermont. But for a total of $200,000 bail, Kurts could be released without conditions. Kurts’ family met that threshold this week, according to court documents, ending the GPS monitoring as Kurts awaits his next court hearing in August.
That prompted the director of public safety at St. Olaf College to notify the school community of the latest developments in Kurts’ case.
“By paying the full amount of the bail, Kurts will no longer have restrictions on his release; his ankle bracelet will be removed; and he is no longer prohibited from possessing firearms or being present in places where firearms are sold or used. He is, of course, required to remain law abiding,” Derek Kruse wrote, also stating that a no-trespass order against Kurts remained in effect at the college campus. The school is also working to strengthen security measures in the wake of the case, according to Kruse.
Paul Rogosheske, a Minnesota-based defense attorney representing Kurts, said his client remains barred from possessing firearms under federal law due to the types of charges Kurts faces.
There were problems with the GPS monitoring as soon as Kurts returned to Vermont, according to Rogosheske. The equipment wouldn’t send a signal from Kurts’ Middlesex home, so he had to climb about a mile up a hill near his home every hour during the day to obtain a signal, the attorney said.
In May, Rice County prosecutors filed a motion to return Kurts to Minnesota, citing the unreliable monitoring. But Rogosheske responded with his own motion shortly thereafter, saying that with a cellular booster installed in the home, the monitoring should improve. Kurts was allowed to remain in Vermont.
However, Rogosheske said in an interview on Thursday that even with the booster, “glitches” remained and the GPS also failed elsewhere in the state. He thought the monitoring was too hard for Kurts to comply with given Vermont’s topography and accused Rice County corrections officials of being “very unreasonable.”
“So that's why the family posted the bail,” Rogosheske said.
Kurts is facing charges of conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit threats of violence, terroristic threats and conspiracy to commit theft, according to court documents.
His arrest came after a custodian found empty boxes of high-capacity magazines in a garbage can outside his dorm. During a search, no firearms were recovered, but campus police found body armor and ammunition boxes.
In April, Rogosheske denied that Kurts was a potential school shooter, saying that his client purchased the magazines in Minnesota because it was cheaper than Vermont.
“This kid isn’t a danger,” he said. “I can say that with the utmost confidence. He’s not a danger to anybody and that's what we'll end up trying to prove.”
Read the story on VTDigger here: Unconditional release of Vermont student in school threat case prompts concerns at Minnesota college .