Sentencing/Post Conviction

In arguing for leniency, lawyers point to Trump rhetoric for man convicted in plot to kill Muslims

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Lawyers for a Kansas man convicted in a plot to kill Muslim refugees argue in a federal court filing that President Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric should be considered as a “backdrop” that mitigates in favor of a lower sentence.

The sentencing memo filed Monday on behalf of Patrick Stein, a Trump supporter, argues that U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren should take the charged atmosphere into account.

“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 lawyers wrote. The Huffington Post was first with the story, followed by coverage in the Washington Post.

The lawyers’ sentencing memo refers to the This Is Spinal Tap mockumentary in which a rock musician boasts that his amplifier is better because its top volume is 11, one louder than 10.

“Trump’s brand of rough-and-tumble verbal pummeling heightened the rhetorical stakes for people of all political persuasions,” the lawyers argue. “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.’ … That climate should be taken into account when evaluating the rhetoric that formed the basis of the government’s case.”

The lawyers argue that Trump’s win was a surprise, and it would have altered Stein’s plot that took place before the election. “The urgency for action would be gone,” the memo says. “The feeling of a losing battle would be gone.”

The lawyers representing Stein are James Pratt and Michael Shultz. Stein was convicted in April of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy to violate civil rights. Two other men also were convicted in the plot to bomb an apartment complex in Garden City, Kansas, the New York Times reported at the time.

The sentencing memo said Stein was treated multiple times for substance abuse, and he struggled throughout his life with dependence and mental-health issues. After a business failure in 2008, he “became consumed by fear and anger” and sought belonging by joining a militia. An undercover FBI agent reinforced Stein’s beliefs and his hate, the memo says, and the bombing conspiracy was “primarily in the realm of the rhetorical.”

Stein was afraid of Muslims because of what he read on the internet and videos he watched on YouTube, the memo says.

The government is seeking a life sentence. The lawyers for Stein argue a sentence of no more than 15 years is sufficient.

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