WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Three militia members face the possibility of life in prison for a foiled plot to massacre Muslims in southwest Kansas by blowing up a mosque and apartments housing Somali immigrants.
At separate sentencing hearings for the men on Friday, the government plans to play video clips of the intended victims talking about the impact the case has had on their community.
Patrick Stein , Curtis Allen and Gavin Wright , all of whom are white, were convicted last year of plotting an attack in Garden City for the day after the 2016 presidential election. The meatpacking town is about 220 miles (354 kilometers) west of Wichita. Prosecutors are seeking life terms for the three men, while defense attorneys are variously pleading for shorter terms of 15, 10 or even time served. The men have been imprisoned since their October 2016 arrests.
In court filings, defense attorneys asked the judge to take into account rhetoric from President Donald Trump that they say has encouraged violence. Stein’s attorneys noted that during the 2016 campaign, all three men read and shared Russian propaganda on their Facebook feed designed to sow discord in the U.S. political system.
Attorneys for Stein, who prosecutors have alleged was the ringleader, are seeking 15 years. Allen, who allegedly drafted a handwritten manifesto for the group denouncing the government for “not enforcing our borders,” is asking for 10 years. Wright, who authorities said helped make and test explosives at his mobile home business, is asking that he be sentenced to “time served.”
Their sentencings come a day after two members of an Illinois militia known as the White Rabbits pleaded guilty in the 2017 bombing of a Minnesota mosque , admitting they hoped the attack would scare Muslims into leaving the U.S. No one was injured in that attack.
The Kansas attack was foiled when another member of the group tipped off authorities about escalating threats of violence. Dan Day, who was given the code name “Minuteman” by his FBI handlers, agreed to wear a wire as a paid informant .
The investigation captured months of profanity-laced recordings in which militia members discussed plans and referred to the Somalis as “cockroaches.” Recordings that prosecutors played for jurors at the April trial portrayed a damning picture of a splinter group of the militia Kansas Security Force that came to be known as “the Crusaders.”
Day testified that Stein started recruiting others to kill Muslim immigrants after the June 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, by a gunman who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group. In one recording, the three men talked about how they hoped the Kansas bombing would “wake people up” and inspire other attacks against Muslims around the U.S.
Stein, Wright and Allen were convicted of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against civil rights. Wright was also found guilty of lying to the FBI.
By ROXANA HEGEMAN
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