WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A trial begins this week for three members of a militia group accused of conspiring to bomb a mosque and apartment complex housing Somalis in the Kansas town of Garden City.
Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen are charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against civil rights. Stein also faces a weapons-related charge and Wright has an additional charge of lying to the FBI.
The three men, who were indicted in October 2016, have pleaded not guilty.
Their federal trial in Wichita is expected to last six weeks, with jury selection beginning Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren.
The government said in court filings that a militia member tipped off federal authorities after becoming alarmed by the heightening talk of violence, and later agreed to wear a wire as a paid informant. The government’s case features months of investigation captured on profanity-laced recordings that referred to the Somalis as “cockroaches.”
Earlier in the case, a judge denied a defense motion to expand the prospective jury pool to encompass more rural western Kansas counties where the defense believed residents would be more conservative.
Defense attorneys argued the case is “uniquely political” because much of the anticipated evidence is in reaction to the 2016 presidential election. They contended the case will require jurors to weigh evidence regarding whether the alleged conduct constitutes the crimes charged, or whether it is constitutionally protected speech and assembly and implicates the right to bear arms.
By ROXANA HEGEMAN
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