The man accused of threatening to commit a mass shooting while working inside Duluth East High School is seeking the dismissal of his felony charges.
Travis John Anthony Warner Busch, 35, allegedly sent a series of messages to a relative that led to a brief citywide lockdown of schools in April.
But public defender Rebecca Shaw said Tuesday that the alleged facts of the case "paint a very different picture" than the charges Busch is facing.
"These texts were sent to an individual — a confidant and a family member," Shaw told a judge. "That person believed those messages were a cry for help, which distinguishes it from a criminal matter."
Shaw entered a probable-cause challenge as Busch appeared in State District Court for the first time since he was ordered to undergo a mental-health evaluation in late April. The defense attorney said she would not dispute an evaluator's determination that Busch is competent to proceed in court.
Busch was arrested April 5 in the cafeteria at East, where he was supervising a worker in his position as a job coach for an outside agency.
Police identified him after the relative reported receiving a series of messages in which Busch called a school shooter "my hero," compared his firearm capabilities to those of the man who killed 58 people in Las Vegas and described how he could barricade a movie theater and shoot people like "fish in a barrel."
"I'm at school and I don't know what I am going to do," he allegedly wrote in one message. "I seem to still lack the fortitude to take this gun out and start shooting."
Police initially instructed all schools in the city to go into lockdown until they determined where Busch was working and took him into custody without incident.
Busch was unarmed but he reportedly had a handgun cocked and loaded in the trunk of his car, which was parked outside the school. At his downtown apartment, police said they seized several additional firearms, including one that could be modified to have automatic capabilities.
Busch is charged with felony counts of making threats of violence and possession of a machine gun conversion kit.
The threats charge alleges that he "did directly or indirectly threaten to commit any crime of violence with the purpose to terrorize another ... or to cause evacuation of a building, place of assembly or facility of public transportation or otherwise to cause serious public inconvenience or in a reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror or inconvenience."
Another public defender previously told a judge that the machine gun charge should not apply in Busch's case because the items seized from his apartment are "incapable of rendering a firearm automatic."
Sixth Judicial District Judge Theresa Neo gave St. Louis County prosecutor Korey Horn until June 21 to file a brief on the sufficiency of probable cause. Shaw will have until July 5 to file any response.
Neo also denied the defense attorney's request to reduce Busch's bail or grant him a referral to supervised release.
Shaw noted that Busch would face a presumptive probationary sentence if convicted, as both offenses carry relatively low severity levels and he has no criminal history. She called Busch's $200,000 bail "extraordinary" and said it is "exceedingly rare" for similarly situated defendants not to have an opportunity for conditional release.
The judge, however, said not all cases are identical.
"The title of the offense is not all that is considered," Neo said. "The alleged facts are relevant in this case."