WICHITA, Kan. (Reuters) – A federal court jury on Wednesday found three men guilty of plotting to bomb a western Kansas apartment complex that is home to Somali immigrants and their mosque, in a crime prosecutors branded an act of domestic terrorism.
L – R; Curtis Allen 49, Gavin Wright, 49 and Patrick Eugene Stein, 47, arrested and charged in connection with plotting to bomb an apartment complex in western Kansas, are shown in these booking photos in Wichita, Kansas, U.S., provided October 15, 2016. Courtesy of Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office/Handout via REUTERS
The men, whom prosecutors described as members of a right-wing militia group, were also convicted of conspiracy to violate the civil rights of their intended victims in Garden City, Kansas.
Each defendant – Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright and Patrick Eugene Stein – faces a maximum penalty of life in prison when sentenced on June 27. In addition, Wright was found guilty of lying to the FBI in connection with the 2016 plot.
In closing arguments on Tuesday, prosecutors said the three men, all of whom are white, were out to kill as many of the residents as possible and send the message to the Somali immigrants that they were not welcome in the United States.
“Terrorists, whether they be foreign or domestic, must be stopped and punished according to the law,” U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister told reporters after the verdict was delivered in a Wichita courtroom.
The 12-member jury deliberated for just six hours over two days before reaching its verdict.
Defense attorneys have said their clients were entrapped by the federal government’s use of an informant who provided the three men with maps and encouraged the use of bombs.
Federal, state and local authorities investigated the plot for eight months as the three men stockpiled guns and explosives in preparation for bombing the apartment complex, where about 120 Somali immigrants lived and had built a small mosque, according to the charges.
The men intended to park a vehicle packed with explosives at each corner of the complex and detonate them, prosecutors said. Garden City is a town of about 27,000 people in southwestern Kansas.
Prosecutors have said the men were members of a militia group called the Kansas Security Force and formed a splinter group, the Crusaders. The defendants had tried unsuccessfully to recruit other militia members to join them in their plot, and it was one of those men who tipped the FBI off to the plan.
Reporting by Alice Mannette in Wichita, Kan.; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Peter Cooney and Cynthia Osterman