Kansas man accused in bomb plot feared social collapse
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man accused of plotting to attack Somali refugees in western Kansas 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, his lawyer said Friday.
The defense claim of a “self-defensive posture” surfaced during a detention hearing for Patrick Stein, a farmer described by prosecutors as the leader of a militia group called “The Crusaders.”
U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren did not immediately rule on whether to release him pending trial.
Prosecutors allege Stein and co-defendants Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen plotted to detonate truck bombs at an apartment complex where 120 Somali immigrants live in the meatpacking town of Garden City. They have pleaded not guilty to conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Mattivi told the court that Stein conducted surveillance on the apartment complex wearing a bulletproof vest and while armed with a handgun and assault rifle. He compared Somalis to cockroaches. That conduct so alarmed another militia member that he contacted the FBI and agreed to become an informant.
The group had talked about wide ranging potential targets including a county commission meeting, refugee aid groups and landlords who rent to refugees, Mattivi said. Other targets under consideration included a Black Lives Matter protest in Chicago and a mass shooting in downtown San Antonio. They discussed using another militia member as a suicide bomber.
Friday’s detention hearing provided a glimpse into the government’s case and defense strategies in a case built on drone surveillance, intercepted messaging apps and recordings from a wired human informant.
Defense attorney Ed Robinson portrayed his client as a “prepper” who was simply preparing for social upheaval during which people would have to protect themselves. He pointed to concerns about refugees voiced at the highest levels of Kansas government and by Trump.
Robinson tried to put the government’s case in the context of his client’s concerns about the state of the country: fears of an invasion across the Mexican border by troops from China or Cuba, a belief United Nations tanks would roll into western Kansas, and the lies allegedly told by a government informant that local Somalis were financing violence in the Middle East.
Robinson said his client believed that the presidential election would end with social collapse and violence regardless of who won.