I’ve mentioned a few things lately that have gotten lost in the maelstrom of trumpantics that takes up most of the media space and sucks the energy out of us. Here is yet another of those buried-on-page-23 stories that we need to be aware of.
They called themselves ‘The Crusaders’. Their real names are Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright and Patrick Eugene Stein.These three men are among the most despicable dregs of society, for they are haters of Muslims and plotted, in 2016, to murder hundreds of Muslims in Garden City, Kansas, for no other reason than that they were Muslims. Fortunately, their plot was discovered and the men were arrested before they were able to carry out their plan. Their trial began this week.
The plot began sometime in 2016 and was planned to take place after the election on November 8th, because all three were ardent Trump supporters and they didn’t want their actions to hurt Trump’s chances. The plan was to use homemade bombs to blow up both the mosque and an entire apartment complex in Garden City, home to a large contingent of Somali immigrants. Stein, the apparent ‘ringleader’, is recorded saying, “The only good Muslim is a dead Muslim. If you’re a Muslim, I’m going to enjoy shooting you in the head.”
They had framed a document, a manifesto, as they called it, to be released after their heinous plot had been carried out, and they believed it would show their terror attacks to be a ‘patriotic defense of the Constitution’, and they hoped they would inspire others to commit similar crimes.
Their plan was fashioned after the one perpetrated by Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City in 1995. They planned to park trucks loaded with explosives at the corners of the complex, placing bombs disguised as trash receptacles, and laying explosives in the duct work. They spoke of shooting survivors, after leveling the buildings. Their plot fell apart when Stein met with an undercover FBI agent and tried to make a deal to obtain C-4 high explosives, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, and even an Apache helicopter. He was arrested two days later.
The trial began in Wichita Kansas with jury selection on Tuesday and is expected to last six weeks. The three are charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against civil rights. Stein also faces a weapons-related charge and Wright has an additional charge of lying to the FBI. All three have pleaded ‘not guilty’. Now, there was a time when this trial would have been a no-brainer, the three would have been found guilty and begin serving their appropriate life sentences. That was back in the day … this is now, and nothing is so simple.
The defense attorneys appear to be portraying their clients as the ‘victims’, rather than the perpetrators. They argue, among other things, that …
“If you all think back to the summer of ‘16, that was a very difficult time. The media fed this division by reporting on it non-stop. Rarely did you hear anything good about … a politician. Hate ruled the day. It was into this mix that we land.”
Yes, well, literally all of us were exposed to those stresses, but it didn’t drive us to plan to murder more than 100 innocent people.
In his opening statements, Richard Federico, one of the defense attorneys, claimed that the plotters in this case are the FBI, and the victims are, in fact, the three admitted Muslim-haters.
Defense attorneys argued the case is “uniquely political” because much of the anticipated evidence is in reaction to the 2016 presidential election. They contended the case will require jurors to weigh evidence regarding whether the alleged conduct constitutes the crimes charged, or whether it is constitutionally protected speech and assembly and implicates the right to bear arms. Seriously???
The three men were largely influenced by the garbage they saw on social media, and they fell for the many conspiracy theories that abounded during that time. Stein’s attorney, Jim Pratt, says his client believed that Walmarts linked by underground tunnels were being turned into FEMA camps and that whatever the result of the ‘16 election, Obama was not going to move out of the White House, but would instead declare martial law. The men’s Facebook pages are loaded with pictures, memes and blurbs from Fox and other far-right sites that put forth theories that 9/11 was an inside job, Burger King follows Sharia Law, and President Obama was the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Two things stand out for me about this case and the trial. The first is that, in light of the Russian propaganda and now the new revelations about propaganda by Cambridge Analytica, we can see that there is a secondary danger. Such propaganda surely may sway voters, but it can also plant seeds in minds that may be less than stable and thus provide fertile ground, and those seeds can sprout into something lethal.
And the second thing is that as I said earlier, this should be an open-and-shut case, but it won’t be. Not so long ago, the FBI would have gotten the presumption of innocence among law-and-order lovers. But with distrust of the “deep state” prevalent, with the rise of white supremacy, and the FBI under near constant attack by Donald Trump, I’m not so sure we can expect common sense to be the rule of the day here. This, then, is why this case bears watching, for it may set a precedent … perhaps a dangerous one. Do you think there aren’t more like these three out there? Think again.