Parents, lawyer say Minnesota teen accused in plot not getting psychiatric help he needs


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WASECA, Minnesota — A Minnesota teen accused of planning to massacre his family and high school classmates apparently is not getting the mental health treatment he needs, his parents and lawyer say.

The 17-year-old was arrested in April after authorities said they found him with bomb-making materials in a storage locker in Waseca, 70 miles south of Minneapolis. Two months later, the teen is in a state juvenile facility in Red Wing awaiting trial on charges including attempted murder.

On the night that Waseca police unveiled the teen's alleged unfulfilled plot, the boy asked them about seeing a psychiatrist, saying he wanted to "find out what's wrong with me."

"So far it seems to be the attitude of the state to punish and not to get help for someone who clearly needs it and is asking for it," defense attorney Dawn Johnson told the Star Tribune.

The boy's parents say a counselor has been seeing their son in the facility, but usually for just a few minutes at a time and less often in recent weeks.

Defendants entering confinement are evaluated for mental health needs and risk of self-harm, and are seen by trained and licensed staff as necessary, depending upon severity, according to the Minnesota Department of Corrections, which runs the Red Wing facility.

In general in Minnesota, new juvenile and adult inmates who aren't acting out by threatening danger to themselves or others don't typically get ongoing intensive therapy, those who work in the justice system say.

If a defendant wants treatment, a judge can authorize that, according to the state courts office. That's done on a case-by-case basis.

The teen's defense attorneys don't know the full extent of the care he's getting in Red Wing, Johnson said. They know he is undergoing evaluation by a court-ordered professional to determine whether he should be certified as an adult.

He is also getting occasional short visits from a "grandfatherly" man who is a mental health professional at the facility, according to his parents.

A Department of Corrections spokeswoman would not comment on specific cases, but said in an email: "Youth placed at Red Wing receive adequate mental health care based on their level of need. The court maintains authority over the placement of the youth. If their needs exceed what can be provided, the courts would likely place them in a mental health facility."

The teen said he had been planning the attack for more than a year and jotted it down in a notebook that he kept locked in his room.

However, his father recently told reporters that he does not believe his son would have carried out the plan and that there were no signs the teen was troubled.

The teen was charged with four counts of attempted murder, two counts of first-degree damage to property and six counts of possession of a bomb by someone under 18. The Associated Press generally does not identify juveniles accused of crimes. Prosecutors are trying to have the case moved to adult court.


Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com

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