Terror plot by militia group in Kansas thwarted
The three southwest Kansas men charged in connection with a foiled terrorist plot targeting Somali immigrants living in Garden City will remain in jail for now, a federal magistrate judge said Monday.
Curtis Wayne Allen, Patrick Eugene Stein and Gavin Wayne Wright appeared in court for the first time on Monday on domestic terrorism charges stemming from an eight-month investigation announced late last week by the FBI.
During brief hearings, Judge Gwynne Birzer approved the appointment of a lawyer for each man facing one count of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction. She then ordered they remain in custody pending the outcome of detention hearings set for Friday and Oct. 24.
Federal prosecutor Anthony Mattivi said in court that the trio would pose a danger to the community if freed and asked that they be jailed for the duration of their criminal cases.
Their defense attorneys requested the detention hearings for a chance to argue for their release.
If convicted, the men face up to life imprisonment plus fines. They are being held without bond in the Sedgwick County Jail for now. The men are in their late 40s and are members of a small, isolated militia group known as the Crusaders. They also are suspected of belonging to another militia group, the Kansas Security Force, according to court records.
Officials, in announcing their arrests on Friday, said Allen, Stein and Wright hoped to create a “bloodbath” by detonating vehicles laden with bombs around Garden City’s Garden Spot apartments the day after the Nov. 8 election.
They spent months considering sites and targets for the attack – including pro-Somali churches and public officials – before settling on the complex where about 120 people live and worship. The men conducted surveillance, gathered bomb-making materials and planned to release a manifesto, officials have said.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric Jackson has said the men had the means and drive to execute the plot and were committed to doing so.
Had that happened, the death toll easily could have been in the dozens. One of the rooms in the complex was used as a mosque.
In addition to setting detention hearings, Birzer on Monday scheduled an Oct. 28 preliminary hearing for the men. But attorneys told her it probably won’t be needed because they expect a grand jury to indict them before then.
The men’s defense attorneys refused to comment on the charges immediately after Monday’s hearings. One spoke with reporters, but only about court procedures.
The accused men – each wearing handcuffs connected to a chain circling their waist – said little in court, other than giving their names and ages to the judge and responding to her questions with “yes, ma’am” or “no, ma’am.”
“He does understand the charge and the potential penalties in the case,” federal public defender Steve Gradert told the judge about Allen, who is being represented by attorneys in his office.
Attorney Ed Robinson told Birzer he and Stein had met twice, spending “well over” an hour discussing the terrorism charge in expectation of his appointment.
Attorney Kari Schmidt also said she had met and spoken with her client, Wright, in preparation for the case.
Following Monday’s court appearances, Stein’s mother, Hattie Stein, released an e-mailed statement through her attorney saying her family was “shocked and devastated” by news of the plot and arrests.
She also praised authorities for their work.
“We do not support discrimination of any sort and have never advocated or condoned violence as a solution to differences,” Hattie Stein said in the statement. “We are extremely grateful to local law enforcement, KBI, FBI and any other entity involved in the intervention of the alleged plot.
“We fully support the investigative process and ask that our privacy be respected at this most difficult time.”