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Jail inmate pleads guilty to making bomb threats

DULUTH — A St. Louis County Jail inmate pleaded guilty Monday to using a jail phone to call in bomb threats to transportation and governmental agencies, prompting a search of buses in Duluth and the Twin Cities and an evacuation of the Minnesota Department of Revenue building in St. Paul.

Clayton James Hanks, 33, pleaded guilty to three felony counts of terroristic threats during an appearance in State District Court in Duluth. In separate cases, he also entered guilty pleas to second-degree burglary and issuing a forged check, both felonies.

Judge Mark Munger ordered a presentence investigation and scheduled sentencing for Aug. 18.

Hanks was being held at the jail on the burglary and forged check charges when he phoned in the bomb threats Oct. 14, according to the criminal complaint.

Authorities said Hanks accessed the state of Minnesota’s phone directory by placing a call through the public defender’s office, thereby keeping the calls from being recorded. Threatening voicemail messages were left with employees of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Department of Education and Department of Revenue.

The next morning, employees at the agencies alerted authorities about the threats. Officials at the Duluth Transportation Authority and Metro Transit searched buses for suspicious packages, while the Revenue building was closed for about three hours to allow the bomb squad and bomb-sniffing dogs to search for explosives.

The threats proved to be unsubstantiated.

Investigators were able to determine that the calls were placed from inside the St. Louis County Jail. A review of the jail’s phone records pointed to Hanks as the caller.

Authorities interviewed Hanks’ cellmate, who reported that Hanks told him he had “beat the phone system.” The cellmate also said Hanks threatened to kill him if he told anyone about the phone threats.

Six other charges against Hanks were dismissed prior to and at the plea hearing. He also had been charged with four counts of threats involving real or simulated weapons of mass destruction and two counts of first-degree witness tampering.