Three Kansas men accused of plotting to bomb an apartment complex where Somali refugees lived and worshipped were found guilty of domestic terrorism charges on Wednesday.
A federal jury convicted Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright, and Curtis Allen of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against civil rights. Wright was also convicted of lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
The trio — all members of a group of the militia Kansas Security Force — had been planning for several months to blow up the housing complex in Garden City, about 220 miles west of Wichita. The attack was set for after the 2016 presidential election, but their plan was thwarted when a fellow militia member informed authorities.
That member, Dan Day, became an FBI informant and agreed to wear a wire in which he captured the trio speaking in derogatory terms about Muslims, who they referred to as “cockroaches,” according to the New York Times.
Prosecutors argued that the men had formed their own faction within the militia called “The Crusaders.”
In one recording, Stein said he hoped the attack would “wake people up” and motivate others to launch their own attacks against Muslims, USA Today reported.
As the plan moved forward, the three men talked about parking four vehicles filled with explosives at the four corners the apartment complex “to create an explosion that would be sure to level the building and kill its occupants,” according to a Department of Justice news release.
The trio’s defense attorneys argued their clients were not serious about the planned attack and had been set up by the FBI because of their love for guns, The New York Times reported. They also argued that they had the right to free speech and association.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions applauded the verdict on Wednesday.
"The defendants in this case acted with clear premeditation in an attempt to kill people on the basis of their religion and national origin,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a Department of Justice news release. “That's not just illegal — it's immoral and unacceptable, and we’re not going to stand for it.”
And the leader of the local Muslim advocacy group hoped the verdict would sour the plans of any other possible attackers.
“We welcome the guilty verdicts in this disturbing case and hope that anyone considering turning bigoted views into violent actions will see what their fate will be when apprehended and prosecuted by law enforcement authorities,” said Moussa Elbayoumy, chairman of the Kansas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The three men will be sentenced on June 27. They face up to life in federal prison.
[Photo c/o Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office via AP]