New York mosque attack suspect won't face terror charges

Lawyers claim Robert Doggart is getting off lightly because federal law focuses almost entirely on foreign extremists 

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The Independent US

A man accused of plotting to to attack a New York mosque will escape terrorism charges - allegedly because federal laws focus almost entirely on foreign extremists.

Robert Doggart was arrested in April 2015 after authorities discovered that he had been trying to recruit people to burn down a mosque in “Islamberg,” a self-named, predominantly Muslim community near Hancock, according to court records.

The New York Daily News said Mr Doggart, 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 because he believed the community was an extremist training camp.

But the authorities intercepted Mr Doggart’s alleged plot before anyone was hurt.

Now, the 65-year-old is 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. However, he is not facing any terrorism charges and has been under house arrest since his initial capture.

Lawyers representing the Islamberg community, claim a loophole in federal law allows defendants such as Doggart to escape terrorism charges.

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"There's a gap in the law,” lawyer Tahirah Amatul-Wadud told the newspaper. 

“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, which was passed in October 2001 in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, 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.”

However, Ms matul-Wadud claimed, the requirements are less stringent for pursuing terrorism charges if the alleged act has a foreign element to it, for example ties to international terror networks such as Isis or Al-Qaeda.

Mr Doggart was accused of plotting to burn down a mosque in Islamberg, a predominantly Muslim community in upstate New York.

“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,” said Ms Amatul-Wadud.