Prosecutors won’t refer to a former Tea Party activist as a “terrorist” during his trial on a variety of charges connected to a plot to attack a Muslim community hyped by right-wing media as a terrorism training camp.
Robert Doggart, a Christian National Church minister and failed congressional candidate from Tennessee, recruited social media users to join his planned violent attack on a mosque and residents at Islamberg, New York, according to federal prosecutors, reported the Times Free Press.
The 65-year-old Doggart was arrested in 2015 after he was recorded speaking to a South Carolina militia member about his plot to burn down a mosque, school and other buildings — which he expected to turn deadly.
Prosecutors said Doggart gathered an M4 rifle, explosives, and light armor piercing bullets in connection with the plot, and investigators said he was recruiting snipers through social media and by telephone.
He pleaded guilty nearly two years ago to one count of interstate communication of threats, and he’s currently standing trial on one count of solicitation to commit arson of a building, one count of solicitation to commit a civil rights violation, and two counts of threat in interstate commerce.
However, a federal judge rejected his plea last year.
Attorneys for the Muslim enclave say Doggart wasn’t charged with any terrorism-related offenses because federal law doesn’t specifically address domestic terror threats, the newspaper reported.
Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, an attorney for Islamberg, said prosecutors have charged Muslims with international terrorism charges if they’re accused of looking up websites associated with the Islamic State.
“Essentially, your charge is connected to something overseas,” Amatul-Wadud said.
Acts of domestic terrorism must involve the coercion of others or the intimidation of the government through mass destruction, and both must take place within U.S. jurisdiction.
Amatul-Wadud and Tahirah Clark, who are representing Islamberg in a separate civil lawsuit against Doggart, said the conservative activist meets those qualifications — but they said prosecutors haven’t charged him under those statutes because they’re largely aimed at foreign groups.
Prosecutors were unable to charge Doggart under the terrorism statute because they said his attempts to seek a destructive device were too vague to meet the standard of proof — not because he was not Muslim, as some reports, including this one one, previously suggested.
William Tore Tint, the South Carolina man recorded speaking to Doggart, pleaded guilty is September to making false statements to the FBI about the plot and was sentenced to three years of probation.
Amatul-Wadud and Clark argued that the weapons of mass destruction charge might have given the U.S. Attorney’s Office the justification to file terrorism-related charges, and the attorneys believe prosecutors tried but were unable under the existing statute.
The attorneys intend to lobby Congress to address the apparent double standard against black and Muslims charged under the terrorism statute.