Friday April 5, 2019
By ROXANA HEGEMAN
Melgren dismissed defense attorneys‘ request that he take into the account the divisive political atmosphere in which the men formed their plot to blow up a mosque and apartments housing Somali immigrants in the meatpacking town Garden City, about 220 miles (355 kilometers) west of Wichita, on the day after the 2016 election.
From left, Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright and Patrick Stein
WICHITA, Kan. — Three militia members convicted of taking part in a foiled plot to massacre Muslims in southwest Kansas were sentenced Friday to decades 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 Patrick Stein, the alleged ringleader, to 30 years in prison and Curtis Allen, who drafted a manifesto for the group, to 25 years. Gavin Wright, who authorities said helped make and test explosives at his mobile home business, received 26 years. The plot was foiled after another militia member alerted authorities.
“We have extremely divisive elections because our system is to resolve those through elections and not violence,” Melgren said.
Stein‘s attorneys have argued that he believed then-President Barack Obama would declare martial law and not recognize the validity of the election if Donald Trump won, forcing militias to step in. Stein‘s attorneys noted that during the 2016 campaign, all three men read and shared Russian propaganda on their Facebook feed designed to sow discord in the U.S. political system.
Attorney Jim Pratt told the judge that for years Stein had immersed himself in right-wing media and commentators, who normalized hate. But Melgren was openly skeptical, telling Pratt: “Millions of people listen to this stuff — whether it comes from the left or the right.”
Prosecutors presented video testimony from some Somali immigrants who were the targets of the bombing. In one clip, Ifrah Farah pleaded: “Please don‘t kill us. Please don‘t hate us. We can‘t hurt you.”
Allen, 51, choked up as he addressed the judge, prompting his attorney to step in and finish reading a prepared statement in which Allen offered “my sincere apologies” to anyone who was frightened and asked for their forgiveness. But Stein, 49, apologized only to his family and friends, and the judge noted when sentencing him that, unlike Allen, he had shown no remorse.