Defense begins questioning, manifest read in Garden City bomb plot trial

Published: Mar. 22, 2018 at 3:30 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn
Wednesday, April 11

The prosecution has completed questioning it's witnesses and now the defense team is taking it's time to try to inflict doubt in the jury's minds.

One of the first witnesses the defense called is FBI Agent Amy Kuhn. Kuhn worked directly with the FBI informant who previously testified in the case. Kuhn said she did debriefing meetings with the FBI informant and worked with him on recording the defendants and giving him rules to follow.

Gavin Wright's defense attorney questioned Kuhn on how transcribing the audio recordings worked. Kuhn explained how different FBI agents would transcribe the recordings and sometimes, Kuhn or others would listen to the recordings and verify they were correct.

Kuhn said Wednesday that one of the transcripts had a mistake regarding who was present at a specific meeting. She said it was her mistake during a verification process. The transcript listed a specific person being at one of the meetings though previous testimony suggested he was not.

When Kuhn explained the mistake and that the person was not there from what she believes, the defense attorney questioned if Kuhn had ever told the defense about that. She said she had not and that ended the questioning. The mistake appeared to frustrate the defense attorney as it was not previously divulged.

The defense attorneys previously said in opening statements they plan to show the FBI created this plan and tried to take advantage of the defendants' beliefs.

Once the government began questioning Kuhn, the attorney revisited some of the topics the defense attorneys brought up. Kuhn had revealed to the defense attorneys the FBI did not tell churches, landlords or others involved in a threat that they were potentially in danger. Kuhn told the government she did take the threats seriously but due to the investigation, they were never planning on letting anything happen.

"In going and talking to them, it would have just terrified them and it could have alerted the defendants as to what was going on," Kuhn said.

Kuhn also talked about why the FBI did not "back up" the FBI informant during his meetings with the defendants. She said because western Kansas is a rural area, an FBI presence could have tipped off the defendants. That meant the FBI informant was on his own.

Kuhn said the FBI informant was told one major rule - he could not bring up new ideas to the defendants. He could bring up topics they had previously discussed but he was not to put new ideas into their heads.

As part of the government's cross examination of Kuhn, Kuhn read writings that were in a journal found at one of the defendant's homes. It was described as some sort of manifesto.

According to Kuhn's reading, the journal said, in part, "This manifest is for the US Government and for the American people."

“With this document we are going to attempt a forced wake up call. American people you have to wake up.”

“Standing up for the Constitution is not domestic terrorism. It’s actually government terrorism."

“We have to take a stand. Take a stand before it’s too late to. It might already be. We are trying to do just that with this manifest. We know what’s going on. This is a wake up call to everyone else.”

“Well the time has come for us that do care to take a stand. It’s time to do what the government hopes we will never do. That’s come together as a nation, as a people.”

“This is a call to action by all Americans. Please do not just sit idle until we lose this once great nation.”

“Your homes, your businesses and your families are at risk. You’ve been warned."


Tuesday, April 3

A man who acted as part of a Garden City bomb plot but says he instead gave information to the FBI responded to questions Tuesday from the defendants' attorneys.

The FBI Informant spoke of his agreement with the FBI. When questioned, he confirmed his work with the FBI was entirely voluntary, he had to be truthful with the FBI, he had to abide by all FBI instructions, he could not do any independent investigations or take independent actions on behalf of the US Government and he understood the government couldn't necessarily protect his identity as an informant.

He testified he did not violate any of those agreements and answered specific questions regarding how he would report back to the FBI.

The informant said he would be instructed to record certain conversations and he also had a phone that would automatically record conversations from the FBI.

As for the location of the alleged bomb plot, one defense attorney questioned the informant about who made what decision. The informant said he suggested the Garden City apartment complex, though the men had mentioned it before. He said it was not the FBI who made that decision, though the agency did know about that location.

He also testified there were other potential locations the men discussed including Chicago, Washington D.C. and Wichita.

The defense attorney then questioned the informant about the International Rescue Committee (IRC). The committee helps refugees and is a national organization. The informant testified that he did apply to volunteer for the IRC though he never planned to go through with it. He said the militia and the FBI knew about that.

After the lunch break, the defense attorney continued to question the informant about the actual plot and building explosives. He answered questions about what he heard and saw regarding explosives, saying he didn't see many of the ingredients for bombs but that the men said they had them or were close to getting them.


Thursday, March 29

A Kansas militia member started trying to recruit other members to kill Muslim immigrants after the 2016 attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, an FBI informant testified Thursday.

Patrick Day told jurors that Patrick Stein called him a couple of days after the attack in which a man who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group killed 49 people in the Florida attack. He said Stein told him he was “ready to take action” against Muslims and wanted to see who else in the militia group was with him and who wasn’t.

“They were outraged that a Muslim was killing all these Americans,” Day said. “I was outraged too.”

As a precaution in case they were being monitored by law enforcement, Stein held the first recruitment meeting in a shack on the property of another member of the Kansas Security Force, Day said. That June 2016 meeting was the first one Day recorded as an FBI informant.

Day, who was given the code name “Minuteman” by his FBI handlers, said that as he and Stein drove to that meeting, he worried that others might know he was working with the FBI and that his life could be in danger because there was nobody nearby who could help him.

Prosecutors say that over the next five months, Day gave the FBI secret recordings of other meetings and conversations in which a plot formed to bomb a mosque and an apartment complex where Somali immigrants lived in the meatpacking community of Garden City, which is about 340 miles (550 kilometers) west of Kansas City. They say the defendants planned to carry out the attack right after the 2016 presidential election and hoped it would inspire attacks on Muslims throughout the country.

Stein and two other militia members, Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen, were arrested in October 2016. They have pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against civil rights. Stein also faces two additional weapons-related charges and Wright faces a charge of lying to the FBI.

Day testified that Stein and Allen held two more meetings to try to recruit other members to their plot. He said Stein called himself “Orkin man,” a reference to the pest control chain, because he wanted to exterminate the Somalis, whom he referred to as “cockroaches.”

Day recounted one recruitment meeting in the living room of a militia member’s house in Lakin, Kansas, during which the homeowner, Trish Burch, adamantly refused to join them, arguing that militias are only for defensive actions.

Prosecutors played a recording for jurors in which Stein could be heard saying “better not be a f-word said nowhere by nobody.” Day said he understood that to mean the lives of the two people who had refused to join would be in danger if they talked to anybody. Those who did not join them were not given any details of the plot.


Wednesday, March 28

An FBI informant takes the stand in the federal trial of three western Kansas men accused of plotting to kill immigrants.

Federal prosecutors say Gavin Wright, Patrick Stein and Curtis Allen conspired to blow up a Garden City apartment complex filled with Somali Muslim refugees.

Wednesday afternoon, the FBI informant testified that he met the three defendants after spending time with a militia in southwest Kansas.

He said after spending time with Patrick Stein, he learned of Stein's separate militia - Kansas Security Force and his hatred for Muslims. He also said Stein's anger and hatred was unlike the others.

When questioned in court, the informant said there was a plan in place to build explosives, kill Muslims, kidnap the landlords, and rape and kill the families of the landlords.

The informant said the men picked the apartment complex in Garden City because it had a high concentration of Muslims, and they could do the most damage.

He talked about surveillance the militia members would do watching Somalis and following them while armed. He said the militia believed Somalis were raising money for terrorists and recruiting them.

The informant said, at times, Patrick Stein scared him.

The U.S. Attorney's Office is expected to resume questioning the informant on Thursday. The defense will also have the opportunity to cross-examine the witness.


Monday, March 26

A former militia officer has testified he left the group following a mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub out of concern some of the other members were plotting to attack Somalis in their small Kansas community.

Brody Benson took the stand Monday in the trial of Gavin Wright, Patrick Stein and Curtis Allen. They're charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction to detonate truck bombs in Garden City.

Beson testified Stein often talked about Somalis as cockroaches who should be exterminated, which he initially dismissed as "just blowing smoke."

That changed following a June 2016 meeting after 49 people were killed. He said he became concerned the talk of using explosives was escalating into "actual action."

Benson said he didn't want any part of it.


Thursday, March 22

“The cockroaches got to go.”

That’s how the United States Attorney’s Office began it’s opening statements Tuesday quoting one of three men accused of plotting to bomb an apartment complex in Garden City.

Investigators said Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen plotted for months to put homemade bombs near an apartment complex in Garden City filled with Somali immigrants who were Muslim.

Investigators said the group was intercepted and arrested before they were able to carry out their plan.

The attorney for the government, Risa Berkower, said the cockroach statement was just one of many statements Stein, Wright and Allen made when talking about Muslims in America, which the government argued was something that disgusted the men.

They argued that was their reason for planning to plot bombs near the apartment complex and kill everyone inside.

It wasn’t just words, according to the government. The attorney argued the three men put those words into actions. She said the men tested many different explosives and created bombs and detonators all while planning a specific date and location for their crimes.

She said the men planned to attack the complex during the Muslim prayer time.

“You don’t have to take my word of what this conspiracy was all about. You’ll hear it,” the government’s attorney said to the jury.

That statement was referencing what the government says is hours of recordings taken by an informant. The informant, according to the government, was a man who was in the same militia group as Stein, Wright and Allen and decided to stick with them in their plan in order to record it for the FBI.

But according to the defense attorneys, the informant was the one pushing the plot along.

Richard Federico, the attorney for Curtis Allen, said the informant was part of an FBI plot to take down the three men because of their beliefs and their thoughts.

Though the US Attorney's Office said they were focusing on actions, Federico said he sees the opposite and that the FBI made the entire process happen.

When referencing the bomb plot, Federico said, "It was never going to happen and it couldn't have happened."

An attorney for one of three Kansas militia members accused of plotting to blow up an apartment complex where Somali immigrants lived says that other members of the militia didn't tell authorities about it because "none of them ever took the talk seriously."

Allen's attorney also addressed the hours of audio recordings that were made without the men's knowledge saying despite all the recordings, some were still missing and the FBI hand picked certain recordings to play so the jury won't get to hear them all.

Federico says the informant was on mission to infiltrate militia groups and the FBI used him to target the men and the plot wouldn't have happened.

"There was no bomb. There was never any weapon of mass destruction," he said.

Stein's attorney, Jim Pratt, also said none of the plot would have happened without an informant paid by the FBI. He focused on the thousands of dollars paid to the informant as well as the money paid to Allen's then-girlfriend who reported the men were making bombs to police.

"Patrick Stein is not guilty," were the first words out of Pratt's mouth in his opening statements.

Pratt said though jurors may not like Stein by the end of the trial for his hate and what he's said, he told jurors they have to address whether he committed a crime and only that. He said he wouldn't insult the jurors by trying to deny that Stein can be hateful and offensive, but that's not a crime.

Gavin Wright's attorney focused heavily on Wright's character and his past discussing how he moved from Manhattan to southwestern Kansas to help his family after his dad died.

Wright is also charged with lying to the FBI, which is separate from the other men. That instance, the government says, is when Wright voluntarily talked with FBI agents about what he knew in regards to Curtis Allen and Patrick Stein. The government said he told agents he barely knew him and didn't know of a plot.

Wright's attorney said all of that was true.

She said once he heard of an accused plot from Allen's then-girlfriend, he said he wanted nothing to do with the men or any action like that. He just wanted to talk with like-minded people about the country.

Wright's attorney said Wright "chose friends who are bad for him."

Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen have pleaded not guilty to several charges, including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction.