Three men who were convicted of plotting to blow up a Kansas apartment complex where Somali refugees lived have each been sentenced to at least 25 years in prison, the Justice Department said on Friday.
“The defendants in this case acted with clear premeditation in an attempt to kill innocent people on the basis of their religion and national origin,” Matthew G. Whitaker, the acting United States attorney general, said in a statement. “That’s not just illegal — it’s morally repugnant.”
During the trial last year in Wichita, Kan., prosecutors portrayed the men as aspiring domestic terrorists who were preparing to bomb the apartment complex in Garden City, Kan., which is home to a makeshift mosque and a community of Somali immigrants. The men, who called themselves “the Crusaders,” were arrested about four weeks before Nov. 9, 2016, the date they had picked for the bombing.
Prosecutors said the men had also considered attacks on other targets, including elected officials and churches that helped refugees. In secretly recorded conversations, the men could be heard making demeaning comments about Muslims; one called them “cockroaches.”
On Friday, Curtis Allen, 51, was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Gavin Wright, 53, was sentenced to 26 years. Patrick Stein, 49, was sentenced to 30 years.
In April, the men were convicted of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against rights, which the Justice Department considers a hate crime. Mr. Wright was also convicted of lying to the F.B.I.
“These defendants planned to ruthlessly bomb an apartment complex and kill innocent people, simply because of who they are and how they worship,” Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, said in the statement.
Kari Schmidt, a lawyer for Mr. Wright, said his sentence significantly exceeded typical sentences for cases like these. “We believe certain trial rulings materially impaired presentation of the full story to the jury,” she added. “Mr. Wright will appeal his conviction.”
Lawyers for the other men did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Saturday. But they have previously argued that their clients had been manipulated or prodded by the F.B.I., and that they had been unfairly targeted for exercising their rights to free speech and gun ownership.
The trial focused on evidence from a paid F.B.I. informant who had infiltrated a militia group that included the three men and secretly recorded their conversations.
The proceedings took on political significance in part because the F.B.I. has been criticized frequently by President Trump, and because it took place during an era of escalating threats against racial and religious minorities.
Source: The New York Times
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