Former U student sentenced to prison for leaving explosives in Coffman Union

Jason Robert Johnson pleaded guilty last week for placing explosives in the building over the summer.

Tiffany Lukk

The former University of Minnesota student who pleaded guilty to leaving gasoline-covered smoke flares inside Coffman Union last August 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.

In August, Johnson left a bag in Coffman containing smoke flares, an accelerant similar to gasoline and a lighter. The incident caused police to temporarily close the building.

Johnson was charged with possessing explosive devices with the intent to damage property, and terroristic intent. Last week, Johnson admitted to leaving the explosives in Coffman and pleaded guilty to terroristic intent.

Before he was sentenced, Johnson and his mother submitted two letters into evidence. Johnson’s mother wrote a letter that explained his struggles with mental health issues and background. Johnson read his letter to Judge Hilary Lindell Caligiuri.

Johnson told the court multiple times that he accepts full responsibility for his actions and that he’s remorseful for them. He also apologized for the chaos he caused.

Johnson, his mother, and his attorney all stated that the main cause of his actions were mental health issues. Johnson said he was currently taking medication.

In her letter, Johnson’s mother asked for Johnson to be placed in an inpatient treatment facility instead of prison.

While Caliguiri thanked Johnson for the letter, she said she had to honor the plea deal Johnson accepted. She recommended he take advantage of mental health services available to him and said she hopes he’s able to have a good life after his release.