By: Karina Johnson
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
WICHITA, Kansas — On Monday, March 19, the trial began for the three Kansas militia members who attempted to bomb an apartment complex that houses Somali refugees.
Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright, and Curtis Allen—the ‘Crusaders’—each face charges of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against civil rights for allegedly planning to detonate truck bombs in an apartment complex of Garden City, a small rural town in southwest Kansas, the day after the November 2016 Presidential election. The ‘Crusaders’ are a splinter group of the militia Kansas Security Force with violent anti-government and anti-Muslim views.
In 2014, the International Rescue Committee opened an office in Garden City, Kansas, to resettle refugees from war-ravaged countries like Somalia, many of whom are Muslim, and many of whom found jobs within the local meatpacking industry. Witnesses testified that the Pulse Nightclub massacre on June 12, 2016, was the catalyst that shifted the Crusaders’ attitudes from ugly bigotry and complaints of “they’re taking our jobs,” to actual violent ideation and attempts at recruitment of other like-minded individuals.
Curtis Allen, who was in charge of writing the group’s manifesto to frame the terror attacks as a patriotic defense of the US Constitution against Muslim immigrants, also had prior convictions for domestic battery. On October 11, Allen’s girlfriend called 911 to report he had beaten her, and the arresting agents found him illegally possessing two dozen firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition in his home.
Patrick Stein sought material support from an undercover FBI agent to acquire materials to make explosives. He was arrested shortly afterwards by the FBI on October 14, 2016, after delivering to them 300 pounds of ammonium nitrate fertilizer—which is the same raw material that was used by Timothy McVey in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. He regularly referred to Muslims as “cockroaches,” and had nicknamed himself “Orkin-man” in reference to the extermination company.
The alleged plan was to detonate truck bombs around the apartment complex and shoot the survivors afterward in an attempt to do the maximum amount of damage.
The three men were indicted in October 2016 and pled not guilty to the charges.
During the jury selection process, the defense team argued that the pool of jurors for the case was drawn from more urban areas close to the federal courthouse in Wichita, and that this selection would exclude rural and conservative jurors. The presiding judge informed the defense attorneys that the surrounding area included rural jurors as well. One of the defense attorneys told the judge that the difference in belief systems between rural jurors around Wichita is substantially different from that of the population of rural southwest Kansas. The prosecution cited case law that finds groups of prospective jurors are not considered distinctive groups by geographic location.
The theme of the defense team’s argument has been that defendants were swayed to action by fake news on Facebook and undercover FBI involvement. The defense team has also sought to suppress evidence of 28,000 pages of defendants’ Facebook material, including anti-Muslim posts, pro-Trump memes, and fake news stories.
According to the Huffington Post, one of the defense attorneys cross-examined an FBI agent and asked why the FBI did not inform local police about the possible attack so that the police could have warned the defendants against the attack. “Hey knucklehead,” the attorney suggested the police say. “We know what you’re talking about. Knock it off.”
On redirect, the prosecution asked the FBI agent if it was standard procedure to respond for law enforcement officers to a plot to bomb buildings and commit mass murder by calling the suspect a “Knucklehead” and asking them to “Knock it off.” The agent said it was not.
For more information, please see:
Huffington Post – White Militiamen Charged In Plot To Massacre Muslims Argue They’re Just ‘Knuckleheads’ – 11 April 2018
KWCH – Defense begins questioning, manifest read in Garden City bomb plot trial – 11 April 2018
The Philadelphia Tribune – Jury selection starts in bombing plot aimed at Somalis – 23 March
The Washington Post – Trial opens for Kansas men accused of plotting to bomb Muslims – 22 March 2018
Huffington Post – Trump Backers Charged in Anti-Muslim Terror Plot May Argue They’re Just Facebook Warriors – 21 March 2018
KCUR – Trial Starting For Kansas Militiamen Accused of Mosque Bomb Plot In Garden City – 19 March 2018
Chicago Tribune – Attorneys for men in plot to bomb Kansas mosque want Trump voters on jury – 4 January 2018
New York Magazine – The Plot to Bomb Garden City, Kansas – 12 December 2017