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True threat or 'boogeyman'? It's up to a jury now

St. Croix County Assistant District Attorney Ed Minser holds Nicholas Cherrier’s AR-15 rifle during proceedings this week in St. Croix County Circuit Court, where Cherrier was on trial for making a terrorist threat. Mike Longaecker / RiverTown Multimedia

Whether a New Richmond teenager's remark about "shooting kids" was a true threat or a bad joke is in the hands of a St. Croix County jury.

Judge Edward Vlack gave the case to the jury at 11:23 a.m. Friday, when they began deliberating the fate of Nicholas H. Cherrier. The 19-year-old is charged with making a terrorist threat, a felony that carries a maximum penalty of three-and-a-half years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The evidence portion of the trial wrapped on Thursday and lawyers presented closing remarks Friday morning before jurors received the case.

PREVIOUSLY: Watch: Police interview shown at Cherrier trial

St. Croix County Assistant District Attorney Ed Minser told the jury the case, in which Cherrier allegedly told a coworker at Hudson-based Nor-Lake that he had just purchased ammunition and planned to shoot kids, was akin to yelling "bomb" on an airplane.

Minser grabbed Cherrier's AR-15 rifle and his modified Remington shotgun — both of which had been introduced as evidence in the case — and stood before the jury clutching the guns.

"Here's the plastic explosive and here's the detonator that he had in his carry-on bag," the prosecutor said, gesturing to each gun.

READ MORE: Operator error leads to quiet sirens in southwestern Pierce County

Defense attorney Mark Gherty rejected the bomb-on-an-airplane metaphor and maintained that his client's words were a bad joke that led to backstabbing coworkers pumping up rumors at the workplace.

"Nick Cherrier becomes the boogeyman — the imaginary figure," Gherty said.

He questioned why no one at the town of Hudson plant told either Cherrier or company officials their fears. Cherrier was "not aware he was being labeled a mass murderer in training," Gherty told the jury.

That, he argued, gave cause for a not-guilty verdict in the case. Jury instructions include a requirement that both the speaker and the listener of the threat must be aware that the comment could cause fear or a public panic.

"He thought he was telling a joke," Gherty said of Cherrier's mindset at the time.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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