SALT LAKE CITY – A Utah teenager arrested last year in a Columbine-inspired plot to blow up his high school will find out Tuesday if voters in the small city of Roy will take his run for mayor seriously.
Joshua Kyler Hoggan, 18, says he recognizes what he did was wrong but insists that he never had any explosives or intent to bomb the school in early 2012 when he and an older classmate were arrested. He says his six months in juvenile detention helped him deal with personal issues that plagued him then and says that he's rehabilitated and ready to lead the city of about 37,000 people north of Salt Lake City.
"People should trust me because I have proven one thing: That I am human," Hoggan said in an email to The Associated Press. "I have made mistakes, just like the rest of us. We've all made mistakes in our pasts, and I am no exception."
He faces off in Tuesday's primary against the current mayor, Joe Ritchie, and Councilman Willard Cragun. Most consider Hoggan a long shot to get through the nonpartisan primary, in which voters will choose two of the three to advance to the general election. Ritchie has been mayor for eight years and Cragun a councilman for six years.
The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Hoggan pleaded guilty in 2012 to possession of a weapon of mass destruction. Police said that Hoggan, then 16, and an older classmate at Roy High School spent months plotting an attack inspired by the 1999 Columbine shootings. Hoggan even visited with the Columbine principal about the shootings and security measures.
Their plan included a detailed plot, school blueprints and a plan to fly away after the bombing, said investigators who never found a bomb.
A classmate tipped authorities to the plot after receiving text messages from Hoggan, who bragged that he planned to steal a plane from a nearby airport. The boy had logged hundreds of hours on a flight simulator program to prepare. His classmate, Dallin Morgan, pleaded guilty to criminal mischief and was given a 105-day jail sentence.
Ritchie, mayor since 2006, said Hoggan has every right to be on the ballot but he questions his motives and whether he's truly rehabilitated. He said many in Roy are still shaken by Hoggan's bombing plan and are perplexed why he's in the race.
"I'm not so sure how sincere he is," said Ritchie, who has never met Hoggan. "I think he's in it for the notoriety."
Asked if he thinks Hoggan has a chance to win, Ritchie said, "I sure hope not."
But Hoggan likes his chances, predicting that he'll get through the primary. He just completed his first semester at Weber State University in Ogden, where he is studying political science with hopes to have a career in the political realm.
Hoggan said he was misguided in high school. His meeting with the Columbine principal was for research for an article about school security for his high school newspaper, he said. Roy High School officials knew about the meeting prior to him traveling to Colorado, he said.
He didn't seek out the attention that has come with his bid for mayor, he said, but seized the opportunity to let residents get to know him better.
"Many people still have serious questions about me that need answered," Hoggan wrote in the email. "I think that, if nothing else, the citizens of Roy City used a valuable opportunity to have their concerns addressed."