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Inmate Charged in Alleged Murder-for-Hire Plot Against Minn. Prosecutor and Sentencing Judge

Apparently blaming a local Minnesota prosecutor who happened to be his neighbor for his latest criminal conviction, John Stephen Woodward at first made legal ethics complaints against Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom, reports the Star Tribune.

But when they didn’t accomplish what he wanted, Woodward allegedly moved on to Plan B: He retained a fellow inmate to execute a murder-for-hire plot against Backstrom and Dakota County Judge Rex Stacey, who sentenced him in a felony drug case, authorities say.

At one point, the 47-year-old inmate even gave an attorney $2,500, through his wife, as an initial payment for Thomas Jackson, a criminal complaint states. The lawyer, who represented both Woodward and the would-be hit man, was reportedly told the money was to purchase a station wagon from Jackson. But according to the complaint, it was a down payment on the $10,000 murder-for-hire contract.

Meanwhile, Jackson, once he realized Woodward was serious about the alleged plot, went to authorities to reveal it, the newspaper recounts.

Woodward has been charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit premeditated first-degree murder. He has also been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit first-degree assault, concerning another aspect of his alleged plot—to maim a female witness in the case.

In addition to making the claimed $2,500 payment, the criminal complaint says, Woodward gave Jackson a map of where Backstrom lives and his route to work and suggested that Jackson could shoot him through the rear window of his car, the Star Tribune reports.

The new case against Woodward is being prosecuted in Rice County. The earlier drug case that resulted in Woodward’s current incarceration was handled by a Ramsey County prosecutor.

“This has been upsetting to me and my family, as I am sure it has been to the other victims involved,” said Backstrom in a written statement reported by KARE, a local NBC affiliate.

“I am grateful for the work of the many investigators from multiple law enforcement agencies,” the statement continues, “including the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office, who have been involved in this case and have the utmost confidence in the Rice County Attorney who is pursuing this prosecution.”

Neither article includes any comment from Woodward or his counsel.

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