Crime & Courts

3 Kansas men found guilty of plot to bomb Garden City Muslims

A jury unanimously declared three men guilty of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy to violate the civil rights of residents of a Garden City apartment complex.

Curtis Allen, Patrick Stein and Gavin Wright were declared guilty of all charges Wednesday after a four-week trial. They had been charged with plotting to set off a bomb in 2016 at a Garden City, Kan., apartment complex where Somali immigrants lived and worshipped.

“Terrorists, whether foreign or domestic must be stopped and punished according to the law,” said Stephen McAllister, U.S. Attorney for Kansas. “Today’s verdicts are a victory for the rule of law and national security.”

In a news release, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the defendants' actions were immoral and illegal.

"Today's verdict is a significant victory against domestic terrorism and hate crimes," he said.

The trial included listening to extensive recordings, as well as testimony from FBI informant Dan Day.

In a news conference after the verdict, McAllister said he could not comment on what sentence the government will seek. Each defendant could face up to life in prison.

He also said he couldn’t comment on whether President Donald Trump’s rhetoric impacted this case. Trump, who was supported by the defendants, has said that terrorists might be coming into the United States as refugees. The defendants had asked the federal judge to pull jurors from rural Kansas since they’re twice as likely to have voted for Trump, a motion that was denied.

During the trial, a defense attorney for Allen called the men’s words “locker room talk,” the Huffington Post reported. Defense attorneys argued that while the men’s rhetoric was hateful, it wasn’t criminal, and that the bomb plot was driven by the FBI.

McAllister said the jury’s guilty verdict was a “vindication” of the FBI’s investigation.

Earlier this month, Day testified that the three men were suspicious of Muslim Somali immigrants, whom they believed were involved in gun, drug or human trafficking in order to support ISIS.

The Kansas men called themselves “Crusaders” who planned to create a “bloodbath” by detonating vehicles laden with bombs the day after the November 2016 election. Day testified that Stein called the Somalis “cockroaches.”

"We welcome the guilty verdicts in this disturbing case and hope that anyone considering turning bigoted views into violent actions will see what their fate will be when apprehended and prosecuted by law enforcement authorities," said Moussa Elbayoumy, chairman of the Kansas chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations, in a news release.

Contributing: Associated Press

Katherine Burgess: 316-268-6400, @kathsburgess
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