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Accused of fraud, Gustavus Adolphus professor to remain jailed after calling for US Attorney Andrew Luger’s execution

By Stephen Montemayor, Star Tribune
Published: April 11, 2024, 8:13am

A Gustavus Adolphus College business professor indicted on fraud and money laundering charges last week will remain jailed pending a mental health evaluation, an unusual step in white-collar cases that was prompted by screeds calling for the execution of federal authorities.

A federal magistrate judge on Wednesday ordered James Anthony Kroger, 45, of Cottonwood, Minn., to stay detained after prosecutors drew attention to a couple of writings that he produced and aimed at law enforcement and judicial officials.

In a two-part series dubbed “The Kroger Report” — one of which totaled 1,114 pages — Kroger accused the FBI of trying to kill him with fighter jets and infect him with rabid bats. Most troubling to prosecutors, however, was a lengthy and detailed passage calling for U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger to be publicly executed.

“This isn’t a case where we risk the defendant threatening people or we risk him obstructing people,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Melinda Williams. “This is a case where he has already done it. When he says he’s going to hurt people, we should believe him.”

A federal grand jury indicted Kroger last week on wire fraud, bankruptcy fraud and money laundering charges stemming from allegations that he embezzled $690,000 from a joint real estate venture.

Kroger has been an assistant professor at Gustavus Adolphus in St. Peter, Minn., since January, and previously taught at Bemidji State University and elsewhere in the country. He responded to a Star Tribune request for comment preceding his Friday arrest by sharing both “Kroger Reports,” which he said he also sent to the Lyon County Sheriff in Marshall, Minn., and federal law enforcement and judicial officials.

The report includes allegations of misdeeds against the business partner whom prosecutors allege Kroger victimized. It also features selfie photographs of Kroger posing with a statue of a green extraterrestrial holding what appears to be fake firearms.

Luger’s office cited those reports as grounds to keep Kroger jailed as his fraud case proceeded, arguing that no conditions of release could ensure the public’s safety. Williams on Wednesday said that the government has not yet decided whether to pursue additional charges related to Kroger’s statements calling for Luger to be executed.

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Writing in the report, Kroger said Luger’s “acts of terrorism and capital crime, even high treason, rise to a level that has never before been seen in Minnesota and has rarely been seen in America.”

“He should expeditiously face the federal death penalty on multiple charges and counts and if convicted be lethally injected as expeditiously as possible,” Kroger wrote. “My personal preference is public hanging, even nationally televised hanging, but lethal injection may now be the only method used.”

U.S. Magistrate Judge David Schultz acknowledged Wednesday that the charges filed against Kroger do not alone warrant pretrial detention. But he agreed that Kroger’s writings amounted to “strong” evidence of a danger to the public, and he ordered that Kroger undergo a mental health evaluation to determine whether any conditions could be imposed to ensure a safe release from jail as his fraud case continued.

Kroger is accused of embezzling more than $690,000 from a real estate company he helped manage with a business partner based in Scotland. According to the charges, Kroger and the partner, who is not identified in the indictment, set up the company to buy Texas properties sold at auctions for unpaid taxes.

Kroger instead allegedly used the funds on “extravagant personal purchases,” laundered money through purchases of gold and silver bullion and vehicles, and filed a fraudulent petition for Chapter 7 bankruptcy to conceal his scheme.

Jordan Kushner, Kroger’s attorney, argued Wednesday that Kroger did not directly threaten anyone and instead took part in “inept” efforts to use the legal process to get compensation for what he believed were crimes committed against him by federal law enforcement officials — including a February 2023 raid on his family’s farm property for which he is demanding up to $9 trillion from the government.

“His weapon was his words,” Kushner said. “He didn’t understand the impact or potential legal impact of what he was saying. I don’t see anything in here that warrants additional charges.”

Williams said that analysts for the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit reviewed Kroger’s writings and determined that he posed a continuing threat, citing the complexity of the fraud he is accused of and his recent history of escalating acts when he has encountered the criminal justice system.

Williams cited Kroger’s resume — which includes degrees from the University of Minnesota and University of South Dakota as well as two master of law degrees from Georgetown University — as evidence that he understood the gravity of his words aimed at law enforcement officials, victims and witnesses involved in his case.

“This is far beyond just radical stuff,” she said. “This is designed to scare people. This is designed to hurt people.”