A Tennessee man won’t face terrorism charges for plotting an attack against an upstate New York mosque — and attorneys claim it’s because federal terrorism statutes almost exclusively focus on foreign extremists.
Robert Doggart was arrested in April 2015 after authorities discovered he had been trying to recruit people to burn down a mosque in “Islamberg,” a predominantly Muslim community near Hancock.
Doggart, 65, who ran for Congress as an Independent in 2014, allegedly went on right-wing online forums and openly talked about using AR-15 assault rifles to attack Muslims.
He believed the small community was an extremist training camp, records show. Authorities intercepted Doggart’s alleged plot before anyone was hurt.
He’s facing one count of solicitation to commit arson, one count of solicitation to commit a civil rights violation and two counts of threat in interstate commerce. But he’s not facing any terrorism charges and has been on house arrest since his initial capture.
NOT A TERRORIST?
Attorneys representing the Islamberg community in a seperate civil lawsuit claim a loophole in federal law allows defendants such as Doggart to escape terrorism charges.
“There’s a gap in the law,” attorney Tahirah Amatul-Wadud said.
“Frankly, there is nothing on terrorism unless it’s connected to a foreign element. You won’t see the KKK charged with domestic terror even though that’s what they do.”
According to the Patriot Act from 2001:
Prosecutors can only charge a defendant with domestic terrorism if he or she had the intension to “intimidate” or “coerce” a civilian population, or influence the “policy of a government” to affect the conduct of government by “mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping.”
“He did it to intimidate Muslims throughout the country — a civilian population — and acted as if he was going to be the world police, which is very anti-government,” Amatul-Wadud said, referencing requirements set forth by the Patriot Act.
Though he won’t face terrorism charges, Amatul-Wadud said the community is relieved that Doggart could face up to 10 years in prison.
Doggart has pleaded not guilty to the accusations against him.