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Probation for man accused of temple shooting plot



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SALT LAKE CITY -- A man accused of plotting to shoot up an LDS temple in South Jordan has been sentenced to three years probation.

Benjamin Speakman, 27, apologized to his family and the community for his actions during his sentencing in U.S. District Court on Monday--pledging to stick with a mental-health treatment program.

"I commit in front of your honor, no matter the outcome, I will take my medications and go to programs and counseling available to me," he said.

Speakman pleaded guilty to a federal charge of possession of an unregistered sawed-off shotgun. In February, he was accused of amassing a small arsenal of weapons and plotting to kill his wife and mother-in-law before storming The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Jordan River temple.

However, before he could carry out the plot, Speakman walked into Valley Mental Health's facility in Midvale and sought help from counselors. He was later taken to a hospital for treatment by police.

On April 13, he pleaded guilty to firearms charges.

Speakman told police he had been having suicidal thoughts. "Benjamin Speakman stated he had planned on killing his wife and then killing his mother-in-law at their residence. He was then going to go to the Jordan Temple and fight his way into the temple to the celestial room, where he planned to kill himself with the shotgun," an ATF agent wrote in charging documents. "Benjamin Speakman was asked if he was planning on shooting anyone at the temple and he said yes."

In court on Monday, Speakman turned toward a large crowd of family gathered to support him and mouthed the words "I love you."

"We're just going to love him and support him and help him get back on his feet and back into normal life," Speakman's cousin, Neil Peterson, told KSL NewsRadio outside of court.

Federal prosecutors had said that they charged Speakman to prevent another tragedy like the mass shootings at Columbine High School, Trolley Square or Virginia Tech. The U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah said Speakman suffered from mental illness and had a history of not taking his medications. However, Speakman's defense attorney, Parker Douglas, said it was Speakman himself who averted any tragedy. "Here we have a person who, in the midst of personal crisis, had the presence of mind and the courage to seek help and turn himself in to authorities," he told the judge.

U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball said Speakman had some "horrifying ideas." "But before he executed those, he talked with people and turned himself in and abandoned his plan," Kimball said. Speakman was given credit for the four months he has been in custody and ordered to serve 36 months probation. He was also ordered to complete any mental health treatment, take his medications and forfeit any firearms he owns.

E-mail: bwinslow@ksl.com

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Ben Winslow

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