The three right-wing militiamen were sentenced to 25, 26 and 30 years in prison for a 2016 plot to bomb a Kansas apartment complex that is home to the mostly Muslim immigrants and their mosque.

This combination of October 14, 2016, file booking photos shows Patrick Stein (L) and Curtis Allen (R). The two men and Gavin Wright (unpictured), members of a Kansas militia group, were charged with plotting to bomb an apartment building filled with Somali immigrants in Garden City, Kansas.
This combination of October 14, 2016, file booking photos shows Patrick Stein (L) and Curtis Allen (R). The two men and Gavin Wright (unpictured), members of a Kansas militia group, were charged with plotting to bomb an apartment building filled with Somali immigrants in Garden City, Kansas. (Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office / AP)

Three militia members convicted of taking part in a foiled 2016 plot to massacre Muslims in southwest Kansas were sentenced on Friday to decades in prison. During the emotional court hearing, one of the targeted victims pleaded: "Please don't hate us."

US District Judge Eric Melgren sentenced Patrick Stein, the alleged ringleader, to 30 years in prison and Curtis Allen, who drafted a manifesto for the group, to 25 years. Gavin Wright, who authorities said helped make and test explosives at his mobile home business, was sentenced later Friday to 26 years. 

The plot was foiled after another militia member alerted authorities.

Blaming it on Trump?

Melgren dismissed defence attorneys' request that he take into the account the divisive political atmosphere in which the men formed their plot to blow up a mosque and apartments housing Somali immigrants in the meatpacking town Garden City, about 355 kilometres (220 miles) west of Wichita, on the day after the 2016 election.

"We have extremely divisive elections because our system is to resolve those through elections and not violence," Melgren said.

Stein's attorneys have argued that he believed then-president Barack Obama would declare martial law and not recognize the validity of the election if Donald Trump won, forcing militias to step in. 

Blame it on Facebook?

Stein's attorneys noted that during the 2016 campaign, all three men read and shared Russian propaganda on their Facebook feed designed to sow discord in the US political system.

Attorney Jim Pratt told Melgren that for years Stein had immersed himself in right-wing media and commentators, whom he said normalised hate. 

But Melgren was openly sceptical, telling Pratt: "Millions of people listen to this stuff — whether it comes from the left or the right."

'Please don't hate us'

Prosecutors presented video testimony from some Somali immigrants who were the targets of the bombing. 

In one clip, Ifrah Farah pleaded: "Please don't kill us. Please don't hate us. We can't hurt you."

Allen choked up as he addressed the judge, prompting his attorney to step in and finish a prepared statement in which Allen offered "my sincere apologies" to anyone who was frightened and asked for their forgiveness. 

But Stein apologised only to his family and friends, and the judge noted when sentencing him that, unlike Allen, he had shown no remorse.

Melgren sentenced Stein to 30 years for conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and 10 years for conspiracy against civil rights. 

He sentenced Allen to 25 years for conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and 10 years for conspiracy against civil rights. The sentences will run concurrently.

Prosecutors were seeking life sentences for Allen, Stein and Wright, all of whom are white.

This October 14, 2016 file booking photo shows Gavin Wright. Wright is one of three members of a Kansas militia group charged with plotting to bomb an apartment building filled with Somali immigrants in Garden City, Kansas.
This October 14, 2016 file booking photo shows Gavin Wright. Wright is one of three members of a Kansas militia group charged with plotting to bomb an apartment building filled with Somali immigrants in Garden City, Kansas. (Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office / AP)

Post Pulse

The plot was thwarted when militia member Dan Day tipped off authorities to escalating threats of violence. 

He testified at the men's trial last year that Stein started recruiting others to kill Muslim immigrants after the June 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, by a gunman who had pledged allegiance to the Daesh group.

Recordings that prosecutors played for jurors last April portrayed a damning picture of a splinter group of the militia Kansas Security Force that came to be known as "the Crusaders."

Prosecutors said the men wanted to send a message to Somali immigrants that they were not welcome in the United States.

The plot

The men plotted to detonate explosive-laden vehicles at the four corners of the mosque and housing complex in Garden City, a town of about 27,000 people in southwest Kansas, aiming to level the building and kill its occupants, prosecutors said.

Officials investigated the plot for several months as the men stockpiled guns and explosives in preparation for attacking the apartment complex, where about 120 Somali immigrants lived, authorities said.

The sentencing hearings for the men came a day after two members of an Illinois militia known as the White Rabbits pleaded guilty in the 2017 bombing of a Minnesota mosque, admitting they hoped the attack would scare Muslims into leaving the US. No one was injured in that attack.

Stein, Wright and Allen were convicted of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against civil rights. Wright was also found guilty of lying to the FBI.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies