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Inmate charged with conspiracy to kill judge, county attorney

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's 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 completed.

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.