Moose Lake sex offender pleads guilty to attempted murder of staff member
The 29-year-old is expected to receive a guideline sentence just shy of the statutory maximum.
CARLTON — A man has pleaded guilty to attempted murder just three weeks after severely beating a staff member at the Minnesota Sex Offender Program in Moose Lake.
Nicolas Ladell Aron-Jones, 29, entered the plea at a hearing Monday in State District Court. He is expected to receive more than 18 years in prison.
Court documents state that Aron-Jones used a fan motor to beat the security counselor before stomping on his head and bragging about the assault to fellow clients and staff. The 53-year-old worker suffered a traumatic brain injury and had to be airlifted to an advanced care hospital.
The security officer was making his rounds May 1 when Aron-Jones approached him from behind and struck him with a pillowcase containing the fan motor, according to the criminal complaint. The employee fell to the ground and was unable to defend himself as Aron-Jones swung the weapon at his head and body several more times.
The defendant reportedly kicked and stomped on the counselor's head eight times before being pushed away by other staff and sprayed with a chemical irritant. As he retreated to his room and was transported to another area of the facility, Aron-Jones was heard yelling threats and making a series of comments including: "His man saved his life because I was going to kill that motherf-----."
The complaint states that the unidentified staff member was flown to an unspecified hospital and diagnosed with bleeding on the brain, along with other injuries including a laceration to the eye.
Aron-Jones, according to documents, was convicted of multiple sex crimes and violent offenses as a juvenile in the Twin Cities area. He has been in local jails, the state prison system and various treatment facilities since his teenage years, and he is under indefinite commitment to MSOP as a "sexually dangerous person."
A 2015 commitment order indicates he was charged in juvenile court in 2009 with molesting 9- and 15-year-old boys, later pleading guilty to second-degree criminal sexual conduct. He was ordered to undergo treatment and subsequently admitted to a count of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct for assaulting a female staff member at a group home.
As an adult, Aron- Jones was convicted of exposing himself to a developmentally disabled woman at a park, biting a correctional worker and violating predatory offender registration requirements.
He had a history of violence in his time at Moose Lake, with five prior felony convictions for assaulting staff, making threats or damaging property.
Court documents indicate he repeatedly threatened to kill workers and punched, bit and spit on employees in previous unprovoked attacks. In one case, a worker was briefly knocked unconscious by Aron-Jones and kicked several times while he was on the ground. In another, he reportedly grabbed a female worker while brandishing a sharpened plastic object and stating that he was "in prison for life and had nothing to lose."
Aron-Jones received prison time for all five incidents and has at times been moved to the custody of the Minnesota Department of Corrections. However, the sentences had little practical effect as he remains subject to the civil commitment.
The sex offender program has been controversial for decades, allowing the state — with a judge's approval — to hold offenders well beyond after their criminal sentence is fulfilled. It is considered a treatment program, but very few clients have been successfully discharged back into the community, and many have spent decades locked up at the Moose Lake and St. Peter facilities.
Another serious attack happened at Moose Lake in 2019, when sex offender George Mack Jr. used a razor blade to slash the throat of clinician Zachary Campbell. Officials described that as "one of the most serious attacks" in the program's history, and it resulted in Mack receiving the statutory maximum 20 years in prison for attempted murder.
Under state sentencing guidelines, Aron-Jones is expected to receive a 220-month prison term. He would be required to spend at least two-thirds of that with the Minnesota Department of Corrections — approximately 12 years — before he could be subject to a return to MSOP.
The Carlton County Attorney's Office agreed to drop the remaining charges of first-, second- and fourth-degree assault. Judge Amy Lukasavitz scheduled sentencing for July 17.