WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man who authorities say drafted a manifesto for militia members involved in a foiled plot to massacre Muslims in southwest Kansas was sentenced Friday to 25 years in prison during an emotional court hearing in which one of the targeted victims pleaded: “Please don’t hate us.”
U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren sentenced Curtis Allen for his role in the plot to blow up a mosque and apartments housing Somali immigrants in Garden City. Allen was one of three militia members convicted last year; the other two were scheduled to be sentenced later Friday.
The attack, which was planned for the day after the 2016 election, was foiled when another militia member alerted authorities to escalating threats of violence and agreed to wear a wire, capturing months of months of profanity-laced recordings in which militia members discussed plans and referred to the Somalis as “cockroaches.”
Allen chocked 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.
Melgren noted that the attack was motivated by race and national origin, which he called “antithetical to the very principles this country holds dearest.” 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 said Allen drafted the group’s handwritten manifesto that outlined grievances against the government for — in the document’s words — “not enforcing our borders.” Authorities say the men planned to release the manifesto after the bombing.
Prosecutors presented video testimony from some Somali immigrants who were the targets of the bombing in the meatpacking town of Garden City, about 220 miles (354 kilometers) west of Wichita. In one clip, Ifrah Farah pleaded: “Please don’t kill us. Please don’t hate us. We can’t hurt you.”
Prosecutors were seeking life terms for Allen, Patrick Stein, and Gavin Wright , all of whom are white. Allen’s attorney asked for 10 years. Attorneys for Stein, the alleged ringleader, are seeking 15 years. Wright is asking for time-served.
Recordings that prosecutors played for jurors at the men’s trial last April portrayed a damning picture of a splinter group of the militia Kansas Security Force that came to be known as “the Crusaders.”
Dan Day, who worked as a paid informant after tipping authorities off, testified 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 Islamic State group. In one recording, the three men talked about how they hoped the Kansas bombing would “wake people up” and inspire other attacks against Muslims around the U.S.
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 U.S. No one was injured in that attack.
Allen’s attorney, Richard Federico, asked the court to consider the political environment, noting that subpoenaed documents show Allen and Stein were “liking” Russian propaganda on Facebook designed to sow discord in the U.S. political system. In court filings, defense attorneys asked the judge to take into account rhetoric from President Donald Trump that they say has encouraged violence.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Mattivi said Stein was trying to blame other people and things for his actions — from the president to Russians to post-traumatic stress disorder.
The judge said he completely disregarded the claims Allen was influenced by Russian propaganda. “I did a lot of eye rolling when reading that in the brief,” Melgren said.
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.