Moose Lake worker addresses attacker at sentencing

18 July 2023

CARLTON Nicolas Ladell Aron-Jones was desperate for a transfer to another correctional facility. So desperate that it nearly cost Mark Agurkis his life.

“It’s no less than a miracle that I’m even able to address the court today,” Agurkis told a judge Monday afternoon. “I don’t remember much of the attack to be honest.”

Agurkis, working as a security counselor at the Minnesota Sex Offender Program in Moose Lake, suffered a traumatic brain injury and had to be airlifted to a hospital after the client bludgeoned him with an improvised weapon during the May 1 ambush one of the most-serious incidents in the three-decade history of the controversial program that holds offenders who have already completed prison terms.

Aron-Jones, who has been in a variety of local jails, state prisons and treatment facilities since his teenage years, acknowledged that he simply wanted out of MSOP and was willing to go to any means to make it happen.

“Yes, I was attempting to kill somebody that day,” he told the court. “If I’ve got to go back, it’s going to happen again. I’m going to make sure I kill somebody so I can spend life in prison.”

Judge Amy Lukasavitz sentenced Aron-Jones to 18 years. The agreed-upon term falls just shy of the statutory maximum for attempted second-degree murder, but the resolution offered little satisfaction for most in the courtroom.

“It’s troublesome to the court that you’re going to get exactly what you wanted,” the judge said, acknowledging the lack of alternatives for a man who has repeatedly assaulted staff members since first being sent to MSOP in 2015.

Agurkis and his partner were making their final rounds for the day when Aron-Jones approached him from behind and struck him with a pillowcase containing a fan motor, according to court documents. 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.

Aron-Jones reportedly kicked and stomped on Agurkis’ 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, he was heard yelling threats and making a series of comments including: “His man saved his life because I was going to kill that motherf—–.”

Agurkis indicated Monday that he was a member of a “utility pool” and was not even scheduled to work in Aron-Jones’ unit that day. He said he had “very minimal contact” with the client during his time at the facility, leaving no doubt that it was a “planned, premeditated assault.”

“I felt used by the defendant so he could get something he wanted: a transfer to another correctional facility,” Agurkis said, indicating he still deals with headaches and mental trauma from the attack, leaving his employment future uncertain.

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’s been in and out of Moose Lake, returning to prison at various times for five felony convictions that involved assaulting MSOP staff, making threats and damaging property.

Public defender Tyler Hedin said he does not condone his client’s behavior but asked the public to take a hard look at the state’s sex offender system. The indefinite commitment process allows 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.

“We shouldn’t have a situation where there are more staff getting assaulted than there are people graduating the program,” Hedin said.

Aron-Jones claimed he was called “disrespectful names” and that staff joked about how “dying was the only way to graduate” the program. While he briefly apologized to Agurkis, he indicated clients have been left disgruntled at MSOP.

“I’m serving an indefinite sentence for something I did as a juvenile, as a kid,” Aron-Jones said. “My family is hurting. My mother is hurting. I’ve got to live with it every day.”

Aron-Jones will need to serve at least two-thirds of the term, a little over 11 years, before he is eligible for release from prison. However, he is likely to face a return to MSOP.

Chief Deputy Carlton County Attorney Jeff Boucher said he hopes Aron-Jones “will rethink his response to the circumstances and choose the opportunity to be rehabilitated.”

“He nearly killed a staff person who had done him no wrong,” Boucher said. “This calls for the most significant sentence.”

Judge Amy Lukasavitz echoed the prosecutor’s comments and said Agurkis was “just doing his job.”

“I appreciate that you have taken responsibility,” she told Aron-Jones. “But you hurt someone and their family. I don’t know that two wrongs make a right in this case.”

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.


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