Patrick Stein, Curtis Allen, and Gavin Wright were recently convicted of plotting to bomb a mosque housing Somali refugees. The men are now asking for lenient sentencing since they had been inspired by Donald Trump’s rhetoric.
The militia members were convicted of “conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against rights.” The Justice Department considers these charges to constitute a hate crime.
The men’s attorneys are claiming that they are not completely to blame. They wrote, “As long as the White House with impunity calls Islam ‘a dangerous threat,’ and paints average Americans as ‘victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad,’ a mixed signal gets sent.”
While this defense does not absolve them of their crime, it states that the men were influenced by Trump. The bombings were planned to occur the day after the 2016 election.
The lawyers continued, “As long as the Executive Branch condemns Islam and commends and encourages violence against would-be enemies, then a sentence imposed by the Judicial Branch does little to deter people generally from engaging in such conduct if they believe they are protecting their countries from enemies identified by their own Commander-in-Chief.”
This defense may be a shot in the dark, but it is one that can be copied if successful. It would not be a surprise to see other people convicted of bias crimes to claim they were influenced by Trump.
Anti-Muslim rhetoric has continued in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections. A group called “The Muslim Advocates” recently performed a study on Anti-Muslim messaging in various races.
Scott Simpson, public advocacy director of the group, said, “We’ve seen them (Anti-Muslim candidates) running at every level of office, from the school and planning boards all the way to governor and Congress. We’ve seen it in liberal places and conservative places.”