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Olsen pleads guilty, set to be released

YOUNGSTOWN — On June 2, Justin Olsen, 18, engaged in an online discussion about the 1993 deaths of 75 members of the Branch Dividians sect in Waco, Texas, before posting this statement: “in conclusion shoot all federal agents on sight.”

On Monday, Olsen pleaded guilty to making the statement, which is a federal offense. A second charge will be dismissed in exchange for the guilty plea, and Olsen will be sentenced at 11 a.m. April 14 in federal court, Cleveland.

Magistrate Judge George Limbert set Olsen’s bond at $20,000, and Olsen’s attorney, Jerry Ingram, estimated Olsen would be freed from the Mahoning County Justice Center overnight.

When the magistrate judge asked Olsen to state what his offense was, Olsen, sitting at the defense table dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit and wearing shackles his hands and feet, said: “I threatened a federal agent in the course of his duties.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Yasmine Makridis told the magistrate judge she believes Olsen deserved a two-point reduction in his federal offense level for accepting responsibility for his actions.

Limbert said Olsen’s total cumulative offense level was estimated at a 14, which is apparently below the level required for prison. That number potentially gives him two points of credit for accepting responsibility. A presentence investigation of Olsen’s background will be compiled and reviewed before he is sentenced.

U.S. District Court Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. in Cleveland will sentence Olsen, and he can sentence him outside of the “guideline range,” the magistrate judge said. Olsen could get as much as 10 years in prison.

Olsen sat quietly through the hearing, including during exchanges with Ingram. He spoke clearly when answering questions from the magistrate judge.

When he entered the courtoom from the back, Olsen looked momentarily at a middle-aged man sitting with an older couple in the gallery before taking his seat. A woman and girl sat farther back in the courtroom.

Later, Olsen raised his writing hand with difficulty from his belly chains to sign his plea agreement.

The magistrate judge said Olsen will be living with his mother, Melanie Olsen, who works as a licensed clinical counselor for a mental health agency, when he is released.

He had lived with her in Boardman and then his father, Eric Olsen, a technology teacher at Howland Middle School, in the weeks before and after the threat was made. His father also lives in Boardman.

When law enforcement searched Eric Olsen’s home, they found 10,000 rounds of ammunition and 27 firearms that Eric Olsen said belonged to him. Investigators found a machete in Justin’s car.

Melanie Olsen testified at an earlier hearing that her son, a Boardman High School graduate, had a 3.8 grade point average and no record of discipline in high school. He was involved sports and organizations, including three orchestras in which he played cello, three academic teams and varsity tennis.

A May 11, 2019, edition of the Boardman Neighbors newspaper shows a smiling Justin Olsen among several other students and an advanced biology teacher under the headline “Students attend National Envirothon.” Other articles mentioned his success in tennis.

Under questioning by the magistrate judge, Justin Olsen said he had never been treated with psychiatric medications. He is not allowed to possess any weapon or destructive device while he awaits sentencing and must report any contact with law enforcement.

The people who attended the hearing declined to comment afterward.

erunyan@tribtoday.com

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