The three men — all members of the so-called “Kansas Security Force” — claimed they were entrapped by the FBI and an undercover informant.
(CN) — The decades-long sentences of three Kansas men convicted of plotting to blow up a Mosque were affirmed by the 10th Circuit on Monday.
After a jury trial in which the government called 15 witnesses and submitted 500 exhibits and the defense called 10 witnesses and offered 40 exhibits, a federal judge in 2019 sentenced Curtis Allen, 53, and Gavin Wright, 55 — members of the so-called Kansas Security Force militia group — to 25 years each in federal prison for plotting to blow up an apartment complex and mosque in Garden City, Kansas. Accomplice Patrick Stein, 51, received a 30-year sentence.
All three men appealed their sentences in December 2020, claiming U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren, a George W. Bush appointee, failed to instruct the jury on entrapment. The 10th Circuit panel rejected that argument Monday.
"The fact that the government employed deceit or persuasive tactics in investigating criminal activity is insufficient to establish entrapment,” the court explained in an unsigned 27-page opinion. "Defendants did not testify, and primarily point to evidence presented by the government in arguing that there was an evidentiary basis for an entrapment instruction at trial."
In 2016, Allen and Wright told a mole working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation they had successfully tested a small homemade explosive and were seeking supplies to make fertilizer bombs. According to court documents, the men along with Stein planned to put the bombs in trashcans around an apartment complex inhabited by Somalian immigrants in Garden City, Kansas, and detonate them during Muslim prayer time using prepaid cellphones.
If carried out, the attack could have killed 100 innocent people.
With the help of undercover informant Dan Day, the FBI tailed the so-called Kansas Security Force for eight months between 2015 and 2016. The militia group was founded to respond to potential catastrophic events from natural disasters to the breakdown of the U.S. government. According to court documents, many members connected over survival training, defense-tactics and fears of radical Islam.
"The government responds that the actual evidence at trial reflects that the defendants, not Mr. Day or the undercover employee, originated a plan to kill innocent Muslims with explosives,” the court wrote in its opinion.
Senior U.S. Circuit Judge Paul Joseph Kelly Jr., a George H.W. Bush appointee heard the appeal alongside U.S. Circuit Judges Harris Hartz and Jerome Holmes, both George W. Bush appointees.
The panel also shot down the men’s argument that the district court wrongly enhanced their sentences after applying domestic terrorist guidelines. Under the enhancement, they each could have been sentenced to life in prison. Without it their maximum penalty was 20 years.
"While it is true that defendants were motivated by a strong anti-Muslim sentiment, there is ample evidence demonstrating that defendants’ offenses were also calculated to influence or retaliate against government conduct,” the panel wrote. “Defendants’ manifesto was addressed to the U.S. government and aimed to ‘wake up the American people’ to the ‘tyrannical government.’”
According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Allen is currently being held at the Florence Federal Correctional Complex in Colorado. Stein and Wright are serving their sentences at the Beaumont Federal Correctional Complex in Texas.
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