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Two criminal counts against Waylon Kurts are dismissed; trial will proceed


In April, a Rice County judge dismissed two of the criminal counts charged by the state of Minnesota against former St. Olaf student Waylon Kurts. The judge granted motions by Kurts’ Defense to dismiss the counts of conspiracy to commit second-degree assault and conspiracy to commit threats of violence. The counts of terroristic threats and conspiracy to commit theft remain. 

This development is a part of the ongoing legal proceedings against Kurts. 

In April 2023, Kurts, a then-sophomore at St. Olaf, was arrested. The Northfield Police believed that he might have been planning a mass casualty event, such as a shooting, at the College. The Messenger reported on the details of this event last fall. 

Since Kurts’ arrest, his case has proceeded in Rice County, and evidence has now been made available. 

Much of the evidence submitted by the Defense relates to their argument that Kurts was a firearms enthusiast who was also interested in survivalism and the outdoors. 

Evidence offered by the State includes Northfield Police reports, Public Safety reports, redacted St. Olaf Community Concern reports, transcripts of an interview with Kurts’ mother, Woden Teachout, and photographs of Kurts’ belongings, including a photo of a rifle and photos of his notebooks. Neither party offered testimony. 

Based on the evidence, Judge Christine A. Long partially accepted the Defense’s motion to dismiss the two counts against Kurts due to lack of probable cause. 

However, she rejected their motion to dismiss the felony count of terroristic threats and the misdemeanor count of conspiracy to commit theft. Kurts has pleaded “not guilty” to both counts. 

The counts of conspiracy to commit threats of violence and second-degree assault have been dismissed because no evidence showing a direct agreement between Kurts and Nate Mays, Kurts’ alleged co-conspirator, has been provided. In their messages, Mays and Kurts discussed firearms together but did not discuss committing acts of violence at St. Olaf, and Mays asked Kurts to not keep firearms on campus out of fear that they could cause trouble. 

Both the State and the Defense agree that, in regard to the count of terroristic threats, Kurts made no direct threats. 

The State argues, though, that Kurts made an indirect threat by leaving the high-capacity magazine boxes in a public trash container and collecting items that could be used to carry out a violent event at St. Olaf, because he knew that this could incite terror in the student population. The State also argues that Kurts’ notebooks, the stockpiling of materials, and the fact that he apparently “tested” Public Safety responses in December 2022 all create “reasonable apprehension that Defendant would follow through on the threat.” 

The Defense disputes these claims. 

Arguments related to this count of terroristic threats, as well as the theft count, will be heard in a jury trial. A scheduling conference for the trial will be held in July. 

Reporting by The Olaf Messenger is ongoing.

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