Lawyers representing one of the men who plotted to bomb a mosque in Kansas in 2016 have argued that their client should receive a more lenient sentence because President Trump’s rhetoric during the 2016 election set a “backdrop” that inflamed fears of Muslims among the president’s supporters.
Patrick Eugene Stein, who with two other men conspired with an FBI informant and an undercover agent, had also planned to bomb an apartment complex that housed Muslims in Garden City, Kansas, the day after the 2016 election. He called Muslims “cockroaches” and had also talked about killing Muslims with pigs’ blood. The three men were convicted on charges of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and to violate the civil rights of others, and they are scheduled to be sentenced Friday. The government is seeking life sentences.
Stein’s attorneys have argued that their client, a passionate Trump supporter, should only get 15 years in prison. “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.
They added: “Trump’s brand of rough-and-tumble verbal pummeling heightened the rhetorical stakes for people of all political persuasions. A personal 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.’ ”
Part of their argument hinged on their theory that Stein would have never actually followed through with his plans, given that he had expected Hillary Clinton to win the election and Trump’s victory would likely have defused his anger. “The urgency for action would be gone,” they wrote. “The feeling of a losing battle would be gone. The conspiracies, in part, would be disproven as the transition from Obama to Trump took place.”
They described Stein as someone who had struggled with substance abuse and mental health issues, and someone who “fill[ed] the holes in his life” with his membership in an extremist militia—a “perfect … target” for the FBI’s informant. They also argued that the judge should take into account the people who encouraged his hateful beliefs. “Patrick was afraid of Muslims because of what he read about them on the internet and the videos he watched on YouTube,” the attorneys wrote. “Patrick’s knowledge of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, came directly from the internet and conservative talk-show hosts such as Sean Hannity and Michael Savage.”
Just two months before Stein’s comments about killing Muslims with weapons contaminated by pigs’ blood, as the Washington Post has pointed out, then-candidate Trump had told a false story at one of his rallies about U.S. Gen. John Pershing executing Muslims in the Philippines in the early 1900s with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood, as an example of how to be tough on terrorism.