Lawyers for three hate-filled southwest Kansas men, found guilty this week of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and violating the civil rights of Somali refugees at a Garden City apartment complex, portrayed their clients as uninformed and led into the plot by an FBI informant.
The informant’s involvement in persuading the men to keep the bombing plan alive was at the heart of the case. A federal jury in Wichita sided with prosecutors and the FBI.
How persuadable were the men? One, according to his lawyer, thought Walmarts were linked by underground tunnels to be turned into FEMA camps. He also believed that after Donald Trump was elected president in November 2016, President Barack Obama would declare martial law and refuse to leave the White House.
That’s more than uninformed. That’s scary.
Patrick Stein, Curtis Allen and Gavin Wright threatened to attack Obama, members of Congress, refugees’ churches and refugees’ landlords. Their militia group, “the Crusaders,” settled on a plan to bomb an apartment complex with Somali tenants.
Defense lawyers put the FBI on trial, arguing without paid informant Dan Day in the group and pushing the men to continue with the plot, they wouldn’t have committed the conspiracy crimes in October 2016.
Prosecutors said Day was the “one man standing between these three defendants and apartment complex full of innocent people.”
The men were arrested after bringing 300 pounds of fertilizer to an undercover agent. The plan was to make explosives filled with razor blades, nails and ball bearings. This was more than idle talk; they had a plan to hurt people who didn’t look like them.
They may spend all their remaining years in prison. A jury decided that they weren’t led astray by an informant and took enough action that their bombing plot threatened lives.
The FBI didn’t stop the planning too soon, instead monitoring every step until bomb ingredients became involved. The bureau takes risks when it allows plots to reach such late points with informants inside, but the result in Garden City saved lives and sent a message that such hate, at least in Kansas, can be allowed in speech but not beyond in threats to a community.