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Tuesday, 20 March 2018 14:47

Prosecutors, defense spar over alleged plot talks

• Leader & Times
WICHITA — After many months and many motions and filings, the trial against three area men accused of plotting to bomb a Garden City apartment complex/mosque officially began Monday morning in federal court, with Judge Eric Melgren presiding over the case.
The day was focused mostly on several motions and filings done by both the prosecution and defense sides in the case, with Monday morning beginning with a Franks hearing between Melgren, Patrick Stein defense counsel James Pratt and Chad Moore, a state trooper assigned to the FBI Task Force with the case, during which several questions were asked about not only searches and surveillance in the case but also concerns about the seizure of Stein’s computer.
After the first morning break came more discussion on the case, with a particular point of contention being the definition of “conspiracy” and whether or not talking about plans actually constitutes planning, with the defense saying there was no official agreement made between the three defendants to do anything, while the prosecution showed how transcripts of conversations between Stein and co-defendants Curtis Allen and Gavin Wright could show the opposite.
“Those conversations were indeed troubling,” Melgren said.
Melgren went on to say how the allegations were somewhat broad regarding count one, which is conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction against people and property in the U.S.  Melgren also questioned both the defense and prosecution of what they felt should be considered the official beginning of the alleged conspiracy (with the prosecution charging it began in Feb. 2016 and the defense saying late fall 2018), eventually officially deciding to narrow down the time frame to no earlier than Feb. 2016 and no later than July 2016 after combing through other evidence categorically with the defense and prosecution.
“Did the defendants start planning anything?” Curtis Allen’s defense attorney Melody Brannon asked. “When did they begin compiling everything? Is all that irrelevant until the target had been decided?”
Brannon continued, saying there was no evidence until late summer 2016 about resources beginning to be compiled and said more specific statements need to be identified and again reiterated how discussion alone did not indicate anything was officially being planned.
“They had not chosen a method or target, they were all in disarray,” Brannon said. “There was no method or target until nearly September.”
After the lunch break, both sides came back to court and Judge Melgren asked for ideas on how to proceed, with the prosecution starting their arguments, starting with their argument about the beginning date of the alleged conspiracy being Feb. 2016, saying a confidential human source (CHS) had met with Stein and eventually met with Allen and Wright. A handful of recorded conversations were recapped before the court, with a particular conversation in June 2016 being significant. Lead prosecutor Anthony Mattivi recapped excerpts of several conversations between Stein and the CHS and conversations between Stein and the other co-defendants. Mattivi’s recap indicated one of the recordings happened two days after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla., with the conversations being extremely frustrated in nature and Mattivi recapping several quotes such as “I’m tired of our government killing our own people” and “I’m tired of waiting to happen” from the conversations.
Another meeting Mattivi briefly recapped had the main purpose of recruiting others to the alleged plot and also featured several derogatory comments especially toward Muslim immigrants and other conversations brought up included further ideas regarding surveillance and different ways to target them and “drive them out,” Mattivi quoted.
“All of this could demonstrate the beginning of a conspiracy even if no details had been decided yet,” Mattivi said.
The defense then came back before the court, with Brannon beginning the defense’s arguments.
“There’s no agreement in what the government has shown that these men intended to break the law,” Brannon said. “There’s also nothing to indicate Mr. Allen even knew anything about this. There were also legal avenues being discussed including writing to their representatives and congressmen and also writing to the White House.”
Melgren countered by saying he felt it was fair to argue the discussions center on violence, with Brannon again countering by saying there should be independent evidence to show what, if anything, was known by Allen, and added the Stein conversation transcripts recapped by Mattivi only shows one side with very little to no extra context and featured mostly unilateral statements.




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