Reprinted with permission from Shareblue.
Lawyers for three members of a Kansas militia group who were convicted of an anti-Muslim hate crime argued in court this week that the men should be granted leniency in their sentencing because their violence was incited by Trump and his incendiary campaign rhetoric.
Patrick Stein, Curtis Allen, and Gavin Wright were each convicted for taking part in a conspiracy to kill Muslim refugees before the 2016 election.
The three men reportedly planned to bomb an apartment building in Kansas that housed a mosque and a large population of Muslim Somali refugees, but they were arrested before they could carry out the attack.
Now facing sentencing, the men’s lawyers are asking the judge for leniency, and they’re using Trump’s own words and tweets to make their case.
“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,” they wrote in a sentencing memorandum, according to a copy obtained by HuffPost.
The lawyers wrote that Trump’s “rough-and-tumble verbal pummeling” in the 2016 presidential campaign “heightened the rhetorical stakes for people of all political persuasions.”
Attorneys for one of the men also cited recent polling data showing a surge in anti-Muslim violence since Trump’s election, as well as Trump’s continued pattern of stoking Islamophobia, as reasons why a life sentence would not serve as deterrence for others.
With Trump continuing to push this rhetoric, the lawyers argued, some people will feel justified in engaging in violence against the people Trump identifies as enemies.
They even used Trump’s tweets as evidence, including a recent one in which he falsely claimed that “Middle Easterners” are hiding out among those traveling toward the U.S. as part of the so-called migrant “caravan.” He has repeated that claim several times, as have other members of his administration, despite admitting that there’s no proof behind it.
“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,” the attorneys wrote in the memo.
“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,” they added.
The lawyers are asking the judge to consider all of this as a “backdrop” to the case before issuing a sentence. The men are eligible for life sentences, but their attorneys are arguing for the time to be reduced to 15 years in prison because of the political climate at the time they were planning to commit the crime.
This comes just less than a week after Robert Bowers shot and killed 11 Jewish people at a Pittsburgh synagogue, a rampage that was fueled in part by a conspiracy theory about Jews funding the so-called migrant “caravan.”
On Wednesday, Trump endorsed this conspiracy theory on national television.
Published with permission of The American Independent.