Attorneys for two of the Kansas men accused of plotting to bomb an apartment complex filled with Somali Muslim immigrants in Garden City argued their clients were bit players not interested in actually carrying out the plan.
The attorneys for Curtis Allen and Gavin Wright said it was the third defendant, Patrick Stein, and an FBI informant who were truly dedicated to formulating a plan to set off a bomb the day after the 2016 presidential election.
While prosecutors agreed that Stein was the most radical of the three, they said all the defendants are guilty. During closing remarks Tuesday in federal court in Wichita, the prosecution played secret recordings of the three men by the informant.
In one clip, the three defendants are heard discussing putting knives and ball bearings into a bomb to maximize the damage.
“The only reason in the world to put ball bearings and razor blades inside a bomb is because you want to kill as many people as you can,” prosecutor Tony Mattivi said.
Jurors began deliberations in the case late Tuesday afternoon. The three men face charges of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and of conspiring to violate the civil rights of the tenants in the targeted Garden City apartment complex.
If found guilty, they face possible life in prison.
Allen’s attorney said there was a conspiracy and while it did involve three parties, it didn’t include Allen and Wright. Instead, the attorney said the conspirators were the FBI, Dan Day — its paid informant — and Stein.
The argument could work in Stein’s favor.
The judge instructed the jurors that for someone to be found guilty of a conspiracy they need a co-conspirator. If both Allen and Wright are found not guilty of conspiracy charges, Stein would have to be found not guilty as well because he would not have had anyone to conspire with.
Day, the FBI informant, recorded hours of conversation with the three men, who were part of the Kansas Security Force militia. Defense attorneys have attacked his motives and credibility throughout the trial, including Tuesday.
During his jury instructions, Judge Eric Melgren said the testimony of a paid informant — Day earned about $32,000 for his work — needs to be viewed with extra scrutiny.
One of Allen’s defense attorneys said during opening statements in March that the defendants did not have the means, materials or knowledge to actually go through with any bombing plot.
Looking to prove otherwise, Mattivi placed two cardboard boxes in front of the jury and started filling a table with evidence. The pile included safety goggles, kitchen scales, shopping lists for bomb-making materials and bomb-making recipes, including multiple copies of The Anarchist Cookbook.
Throughout the trial and closing arguments, the defense argued that the recordings of the men discussing a plan to make a bomb and use it to kill and intimidate Muslims was the defendants blowing off steam and “locker room talk.” The defendants, their attorneys proposed, were being targeted for their words, not any actions.
The prosecution said that the defendants went well beyond words.
Mattivi gave the example of one witness who had previously said on Facebook that he wanted to kill Muslims. Mattivi said the witness was not on trial because, unlike the three defendants, his words never turned into actions.
In June 2016, Stein had approached the witness about taking action against the Muslim community, but the witness refused. The defense argued that because the witness did not report Stein, Allen or Wright to law enforcement, it showed that Stein’s words were not taken as a serious threat.
Stein’s lawyer, James Pratt, said that it’s understandable that the jury would not like Stein — they have spent the last four weeks hearing recordings of Stein referring to Muslims as cockroaches and himself as the “Orkin Man” — but that wasn’t enough to find Stein guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
“It is not morally right to hold such hate, but it is not legally wrong,” Pratt said.
Stephan Bisaha, based at KMUW in Wichita, is an education reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio, KCUR and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. Follow him on Twitter @SteveBisaha. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.
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