The attorneys for one of the extremists found guilty of plotting in 2016 to bomb Somali immigrants in Kansas floated a novel defense in an effort to obtain a lighter sentence for their client: blame Donald Trump.
In a sentencing memo filed Monday and first reported by HuffPost, James Pratt and Michael Shultz said their client, Patrick Stein, had been spurred to plan his violence due in part to then-candidate Trump’s incendiary rhetoric in the months leading up to the 2016 election.
The attorneys didn’t hide the fact that their client, found guilty along with two others of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, was an enthusiastic Trump supporter. “Stein was an early and avid supporter for Donald Trump,” the attorneys wrote, with a “connection to Donald Trump” that was “complete” and “long-standing.”
As such, according to the attorneys, it’s only right that Trump’s rhetoric be considered when Stein is sentenced next month, especially given that the violence Stein and his co-conspirators planned was centered on the 2016 election.
For Pratt and Shultz, the connection between Trump’s rhetoric — much of it centered on anti-immigrant animus, a clear play for white nationalists, and a penchant for violence — and Stein’s plan is clear. As they wrote:
2016 was “lit.” The court cannot ignore the circumstances of one of the most rhetorically mold-breaking, violent, awful, hateful and contentious presidential elections in modern history, driven in large measure by the rhetorical China shop bull who is now our president…
Trump’s brand of rough-and-tumble verbal pummeling heightened the rhetorical stakes for people of all political persuasions. A [person] normally at a 3 on a scale of political talk might have found themselves at a 7 during the election. A person, like Patrick, who would often be at a 7 during a normal day, might “go to 11.” See SPINAL TAP. That climate should be taken into account when evaluating the rhetoric that formed the basis of the government’s case.
Stein’s plot involved violent plans for potential bloodshed in the wake of a presumed 2016 Trump loss, specifically by attacking and car-bombing both a mosque and apartment complex.
“So we were going to use trashcan’s [sic] that were modified on the inside to make a directional blast and set them on the outside of the mosque [on] both sides of the building [and] set them off at the same time and throw a fucking party! LOL,” Stein wrote in a text message to an undercover agent. If they’d been successful, it could have been “the deadliest domestic terror attack since the Oklahoma bombing in 1995,” according to The Guardian.
The attorneys acknowledge Stein’s horrific plot wasn’t entirely an outcome of Trump’s hateful rhetoric, citing a few other factors. Among those are Stein’s history of alcoholism and failed job prospects, as well as the fact that his “knowledge of the Quran… came directly from the internet and conservative talk-show hosts such as Sean Hannity and Michael Savage.”
However, the sentencing memo — which requests a diminished sentence of at most 15 years, rather than the life in prison Stein is currently facing — makes clear that Stein’s planned violence hinged on Trump’s assumed loss in 2016.
“[Trump’s] surprising win cannot be ignored when evaluating the actual danger or likelihood of an actual attack,” the attorneys wrote. “Trump’s win changed everything, and it is reasonable to speculate that it would have changed things among the defendants as well.”
The attorneys’ attempt to tie the violent plot directly to Trump follows several other questionable theories the various defense attorneys have floated over the past year. In addition to claiming the defendants were simply engaging in “locker room talk,” one of the attorneys involved blamed “fake news” for agitating the defendants. The defense attorneys also attempted to stack the jury with Trump supporters — a motion the presiding judge denied.
Curtis Allen and Gavin Wright, the two other defendants alongside Stein, are scheduled to be sentenced on Friday.