Former student sentenced for Coffman bomb threat

Jason Robert Johnson pleaded guilty on Thursday and will spend three years in prison.

Tiffany Lukk

The former University of Minnesota student who pleaded guilty to leaving gasoline-covered smoke flares inside Coffman Union last summer has been sentenced to more than three years in prison.
 
 
In a hearing that lasted about 20 minutes, Jason Robert Johnson, 35, was sentenced to 42 months in prison for terroristic intent in Hennepin County District Court on Thursday.
 
 
According to the criminal complaint filed against him, Johnson left a bag in Coffman on Aug. 9 that contained smoke flares, towels soaked in an accelerant similar to gasoline and a lighter. 
 
 
Officers responded to the suspicious bag at about 11 p.m., and the incident caused police to temporarily close the building to conduct a thorough sweep.
 
 
Police reviewed security footage from that day and recognized Johnson from previous encounters, the complaint said. When they contacted him by phone, he made suicidal comments but was promptly located and taken into custody. 
 
 
Johnson was charged three days later with making terroristic threats and possessing explosive devices with the intent to damage property or cause injury.
 
 
Earlier this month, Johnson admitted to leaving the explosives in Coffman and pleaded guilty to the charges.
 
 
Before he was sentenced, Johnson and his mother submitted two letters to Judge Hilary Lindell Caligiuri for consideration.
 
 
In her letter, Johnson’s mother explained her son’s childhood experiences in an “incredibly abusive” environment, his ongoing mental health issues and his recent loss of a job and home. 
 
 
Johnson told the court multiple times on Thursday that he accepts full responsibility for his actions and that he was remorseful. 
 
 
Johnson, along with his mother and attorney, all stated that his actions stemmed from mental illness, for which Johnson said he was currently taking medication.
 
 
In her letter, Johnson’s mother asked for his placement in an inpatient treatment facility instead of prison.
 
 
“I don’t believe that punishing him through incarceration will serve the greater good here,” the letter read. 
 
 
While Caligiuri thanked Johnson for the letter, she said she had to honor the plea deal Johnson had already accepted. 
 
 
Johnson was enrolled at the University from 2006 through 2010. His criminal history includes several previous convictions, which include burglary, robbery and damage to property.