WICHITA, Kan. – A trial begins this week for three members of a militia accused of conspiring to bomb a mosque and apartment complex housing Somalis in the Kansas city of Garden City.
Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen are charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against civil rights. Stein is also confronted with a weapon-related costs, and Wright has a charge of lying to the FBI.
The three men, who were indicted in October 2016, have pleaded not guilty.
Their federal trial in Wichita is expected to be six weeks, with jury selection beginning Tuesday for the U. S. District Judge Eric Melgren.
The government said in court filings that a militia member tipped off federal authorities after he was alerted by the heightening talk of violence, and later agreed to wear a wire as a paid informant. The government’s case offers months of research, recorded on profanity-laced recordings that referred to the Somalis as “cockroaches.”
Earlier in the case, a judge denied a defense motion to expand the prospective jury pool to include more rural western Kansas in the provinces where the defense believed residents to be more conservative.
Defense attorneys argued that the case is “unique political” because many of the expected proof is in reaction to the 2016 presidential election. They carried the case will require jurors to weigh evidence with regard to the question of whether the alleged conduct of the crimes charged, or is it constitutionally protected free speech and association and the right to bear arms.