Cesar Sayoc, the man believed to be behind the recent spate of mail bombs sent to President Trump's critics, has not said the president inspired him. However, three men who planned to kill a group of Somalis have placed the blame for their attempted crime at the president's feet, BuzzFeed News reports.
In 2016, shortly after the presidential election, Patrick Stein, Curtis Allen and Gavin Wright were arrested for plotting to bomb an apartment building in Kansas that housed Somali immigrants and a mosque. Ahead of the trio's November sentencing, their lawyers have filed court papers that claim Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric inspired the would-be terrorists.
Stein, Allen and Wright were each convicted on one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and one count of conspiracy to violate the housing rights of their intended victims. They face life sentences, and their attorneys have requested leniency from the judge, claiming that the example set by the president means life behind bars for the men would not dissuade criminal copycats.
"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," the lawyers wrote.
According to CNN, the defense got more specific, writing "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."
The filing claims the men had planned to detonate the bomb on the day after the election, but "Trump's win changed everything."
Prosecutors disagree with the idea the men shouldn't get life behind bars and are fighting for just that punishment.
"Their goal was not only to commit mass murder, but also to incite other groups to 'wake up' and commit other acts of violence against Muslims, against landlords who rent to Muslims, and against the U.S. government, and to spread the hateful message that Muslims should be, in the words of Defendant Stein, 'eradicated' from the United States," read the prosecutors' sentencing memo.
All three men are scheduled for sentencing under U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren on November 19 and 20.
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