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Judge rules Boardman teen poses ‘serious risk’ to community

YOUNGSTOWN — Federal Court Judge George Limbert ruled Friday that 18-year-old Justin Olsen should remain in federal custody after being arrested earlier this week on accusations that he made threats to federal officers in online postings.

The judge made his ruling following a several hour hearing in the Youngstown Northern District of Ohio Federal Court. In his ruling, Limbert said Olsen “poses a serious risk of danger to the safety of the community if he is released.”

“This is a unique opportunity to see inside the mind of the defendant,” said state attorney Yasmin T. Markidis during Friday’s hearing. “That nobody in his life knew about (this) is concerning.”

The defense, led by attorney J. Gerald Ingram, argued that although Olsen may have incited others, he did not directly threaten a specific FBI office or specific agents and could safely be placed under the watch of his mother at her Presidential Court home in Boardman.

“He himself threatened no law enforcement officer any harm,” Ingram said.

Appearing in an orange jumpsuit, Olsen remained straight-faced throughout the proceedings.

A Youngstown federal agent, testifying on behalf of the prosecution, read off a printed copy of a PowerPoint presentation of posts from ArmyOfChrist’s iFunny.com account — which prosecutors say belongs to Olsen — including one identified on June 2 where ArmyOfChrist, in a conversation criticizing the Waco siege, posted, “in conclusion, shoot every federal agent on sight.”

Another post glorifying the Oklahoma City bombing and armed resistances encouraged readers to “stock up” on weapons that might be banned and “go out of your way to break these (gun) laws, because they’re (expletive) stupid.”

Other posts expressed violent intentions toward Planned Parenthood and women who have abortions.

The ArmyOfChrist account was tracked back to Olsen and his mother’s Boardman home on July 29.

The federal agent testified Olsen, arrested outside his father’s Oakridge Drive home, did not try to flee or resist, and consented to having his bedroom searched.

During a search of the home, law enforcement discovered about 10,000 rounds of ammunition of different calibers, a Glock firearm in the living room and a locked gun safe in a closet of the master bedroom with about 26 firearms inside it.

A body armor vest and camouflage backpacks stocked with supplies like water and duct tape, referred to by the prosecution as “blowout kits,” also were found, as well as a binder, described as “four to five inches thick,” with information pertaining to school shootings.

Justin Olsen’s father, Eric Olsen, a technology teacher at Howland Middle School, said the binder belonged to him and was research related to developing a readiness strategy for the school.

Eric Olsen testified all of the weapons found, including a machete in Justin’s car, belonged to him. Eric Olsen said Justin did not have access to the safe, which was monitored by a motion-activated surveillance camera that sent notifications to his phone.

Eric Olsen said the only time he’d ever gotten a notification that didn’t correspond with him opening the closet was when Boardman police searched the home. Eric Olsen was escorted into the home to open the safe for law enforcement during the search, according to the federal agent.

Eric Olsen said he participates in shooting competitions and belongs to the National Riffle Association, the Buckeye Firearms Association and the Youngstown Rifle and Pistol Club. He is also a member of several education associations, including the Howland Classroom Association.

Eric Olsen said all of his firearms were purchased legally and were intended for his personal use, but he has taken Justin to the shooting range several times each year since he was 16.

When Markidis asked about his intention in teaching his son to shoot, he said, “I was passing down a hobby of mine. A passion of mine.”

Eric Olsen said the backpacks belonged to him as well, and Ingram argued those could be used in the case of severe weather, or for camping.

When asked if he knew about Justin’s ideologies, Eric Olsen said he knew “parts of it,” but was not aware of his ArmyOfChrist posts.

Justin’s mother, Melanie Olsen, also testified on his behalf.

She said Justin had a 3.8 grade point average and no record of discipline in high school. He was involved in many school sports and organizations, including three orchestras in which he played cello, three academic teams, a mentoring program and varsity tennis.

Justin lived with his mother until recently. Melanie Olsen cited an argument from a July vacation as the reason Justin moved in with his father. She said in what she believed was a “fairly typical manner of an 18-year-old boy,” he had been rude and argumentative. She said the argument that caused their split wasn’t about his ideology, but was a little bit about his attitude toward women.

“He has a habit of talking down to me, (where) potentially because I was a woman, I was not deserving of his respect,” she said.

Melanie Olsen is a licensed professional clinical counselor with Psycare mental health agency. She testified that when she found out Justin was being arrested, she was concerned for his safety.

“I was concerned that when he realized he had destroyed his future plans, he would be so distraught he might harm himself,” she said.

She said she never was concerned he would harm anyone else, and he never had become physically violent in the past.

Melanie Olsen became upset when Markidis suggested she had called her son mentally ill.

She said she was concerned about Justin attending the University of Texas at Austin in the fall because he could become immersed in a “weapons culture” there. She said she was concerned he would further develop extreme “anti-social views” that may make functioning in society hard for him.

Melanie Olsen said she was aware of Justin’s political ideologies, but not of his violent online posts.

Melanie Olsen said if her son was released, she would permit him to live in their home and supervise him in compliance with any potential court orders — which is what Ingram requested. Ingram said Justin could be kept on house arrest there with no access to internet or visitors.

She said she would be willing to take a leave of absence from work if necessary and would consent to warrantless searches of her home.

Justin has no prior arrest record. He was supposed to leave for college Monday, his father said. He would have been attending on an ROTC partial scholarship, according to his mother.

avugrincic@tribtoday.com

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