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Sunday, December 10, 2023 | Back issues
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Man Charged With Planning to Burn Mosque

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (CN) - A former Tennessee congressional candidate on Tuesday was charged with soliciting someone to burn down a mosque and school in upstate New York.

A federal grand jury indicted Robert Doggart, 63, with soliciting another person to violate civil rights laws by burning down a mosque in Islamberg, a hamlet in the small town of Hancock, N.Y., southeast of Binghamton.

Doggart, of Signal Mountain, a suburb of Chattanooga, solicited the crimes on Facebook and over the telephone, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement.

Doggart ran as an independent candidate for Congress in 2014 in Tennessee's Fourth Congressional District.

Islamberg was founded in 1984 by Muslim Americans. It has been a target of right-wing conspiracy groups for at least a decade, according to the Southern Policy Law Center.

Doggart in May he agreed to plead to one count of interstate communication of threats.

A federal judge agreed to release him on bond in June but rejected the plea agreement, saying prosecutors did not prove that Doggart was a "true threat" - a move that was severely criticized, particularly by residents of Hancock.

The Chattanoogan newspaper on May 16 cited this as an excerpt from that plea agreement: "Specifically, in a Facebook posting in February 2015, the defendant wrote that 'Target 3 [Islamberg] is vulnerable from many approaches and must be utterly destroyed ...' The defendant spoke with numerous other individuals (in person and over his cellular telephone) regarding his plan to attack Islamberg. The defendant justified his attack on lslamberg by claiming that the residents of Islamberg were planning a terrorist attack. The defendant stated on cellular phone communications that he planned to bum three buildings at Islamberg: a mosque, a school, and a cafeteria. The defendant was fully aware of the religious character of the mosque when he identified it as one of the buildings that needed to be burned. Additionally, the defendant suggested on a cellular telephone call that he and his group would kill some residents of Islamberg in order to carry out the plan."

In a March phone call, he allegedly told an FBI informant: "those guys [have] to be killed. Their buildings need to be burnt down. If we can get in there and do that not losing a man, even the better."

Doggart is a member of several militia groups, according to Tennessee news reports on the case. Doggart claims to be an ordained minister in the Christian National Church.

If convicted of the new charge, he could be sentenced to 10 years in prison.

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