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Inmate charged with conspiracy to kill Dakota County attorney, judge

A former Rice County inmate, now incarcerated in the Minnesota

Correctional Facility at Oak Park Heights, has been charged with

conspiracy to murder Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom and

Dakota County District Judge Rex Stacey.

The Rice County Attorney's office on Wednesday charged John Stephen

Woodward, 47, with two counts of conspiracy to commit premeditated

first degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit first-

degree assault - great bodily harm.

According to the complaint, investigators learned that Woodward hired

and agreed to pay money to another inmate to murder Backstrom and

Stacey, who presided over Woodward's drug crime trial, and to inflict

great bodily harm against another individual who testified against

Woodward at that trial held in Dakota County.

Woodward was convicted of that crime in September 2007 and is

currently serving a 94-month sentence for the conviction.

The eight-page criminal complaint details Woodward's and Backstrom

relationship (they were neighbors at one time) and Woodward's belief

that he was "betrayed" by Backstrom. The complaint said Woodward

believes the only reason he is in prison is because of Backstrom. The

initial payment to the inmate to carry out the murder was $2,500. A

total of $10,000 was to be paid following the completion of the

murders, which was to take place in December.

In August, the Office of Special Investigations moved Woodward to the

Oak Park Heights facility until the criminal investigation could be


The Faribault Police department, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension,

the Dakota County Sheriff's Department and the Office of Special

Investigations of the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Faribault

conducted the criminal investigation.