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A St. Paul man is being sent to prison for attacking and seriously injuring an Oakdale post office employee who refused to hand over a package that wasn't addressed to the man.

The package turned out to contain more than a pound of marijuana that the man had mailed to himself from California.

James W. Jackson Jr., 23, was sentenced this week in federal court in Minneapolis to 18 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for assaulting and attempting to rob a postal employee at the Eastern Heights station in the 1100 block of N. Gershwin Avenue in Oakdale.

"This defendant attacked an innocent U.S. Postal Service employee, a public servant, who was simply doing his job," Acting U.S. Attorney W. Anders Folk said in a statement announcing the sentencing. "Postal workers are front-line employees who serve the public during challenging times, particularly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and they deserve to be safe and free from violence as they carry out their duties."

According to court documents:

On June 4, 2020, Jackson tried to pick up a package he had mailed to himself while on a trip in California. But the employee, a supervisor, said he could not hand it over because the parcel didn't have Jackson's name or address on it as the recipient.

Jackson left but then returned multiple times that same day, each time trying to persuade the supervisor to give him the package containing 1.1 pounds of marijuana.

He returned one last time shortly before the post office closed for the day and demanded the package. When the supervisor walked away, Jackson leapt over the service counter, followed the employee into the back office and punched him repeatedly in the head. The two struggled and fell to the floor before other employees restrained Jackson.

The supervisor suffered scrapes, abrasions and bruises to his head and knees, as well as a badly broken finger that required surgery.

Jackson's attorney, Shannon Elkins, had argued against prison time, citing Jackson's lack of a felony record and hardships as a child growing up in St. Paul. Elkins also noted in the filing that Jackson was only "attempting to obtain something that he paid for and shipped himself."

Prosecutors had pushed for a three-year prison term, contending that Jackson "not only attempted to steal a package from a Post Office, but he attempted to steal a package containing nearly 500 grams of marijuana. He also brutally beat a postal employee who tried to stop him from unlawfully taking the package. Jackson's conduct was intentional, albeit impulsive."

About two weeks before the sentencing, the postal employee met with Jackson's attorney to discuss her client's punishment.

The employee, whose name was redacted from public court documents, said he's been through many surgeries and will probably be "handicapped in that finger" for the rest of his life and will need further operations, according to a filing made with the court.

While the employee acknowledged being upset about the attack, he said he had no opinion about whether Jackson goes to prison.

"All I care about is that this never happens to anyone else ever again," the filing quoted the employee as saying to the defense attorney, and he just wants Jackson to "be better, whatever it takes."

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482