A Tennessee man, who made a failed bid for Congress last year as an independent with extreme right wing beliefs and admitted in federal court to planning an attack on a Muslim community in New York, is facing new charges.
Robert Doggart, 63, was recorded on a wiretapped phone talking about his plan to travel along with members of a private militia to an area near Hancock, New York, known as Islamberg, to burn down a mosque, school and cafeteria, while gunning down anyone from the community who tried to stop them.
He was indicted Tuesday, July 7, by a federal grand jury on a charge of solicitation to commit a civil rights violation.
“Our small group will soon be faced with the fight of our lives. We will offer those lives as collateral to prove our commitment to our God,” Doggart said in a Facebook post, according to court documents. “We shall be Warriors who will inflict horrible numbers of casualties upon the enemies of our Nation and World Peace.”
Doggart was arrested April 10 by the FBI on charges that he solicited others to violate civil rights, attempted to damage religious property because of the religious character of the property and made threats through interstate communication.
Two weeks later, Doggart pleaded guilty to interstate communication of threats. A judge has not yet signed off on the plea agreement. He was released on $30,000 bond to home confinement after the agreement was made and faces between 0 and 5 years in federal prison, along with a possible fine of up to $250,000.
Controversy over the case recently reignited after a judge said he wasn’t sure if Doggart made a “true threat,” and didn’t immediately accept the plea deal.
“It is deeply troubling that an individual who has admitted to planning a religiously-motivated terror attack on American Muslims is now free, while the intended targets of his plot remain unprotected,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad in a statement. “We urge authorities to place Mr. Doggart in custody until this case is resolved, and failing that, to offer protection to his intended targets.”
Here’s what you need to know about Doggart and his plot:
1. He Said ‘If It’s Necessary to Die Then That’s a Good Way to Die’
Robert Rankin “Bob” Doggart said in conversations with an FBI informant and on wiretapped phone calls that his goal wasn’t to go to the Islamberg community to kill anyone, but to burn down buildings and send a message. But he wasn’t afraid of getting into a gun fight.
“If there’s a gun fight, well there’s a gun fight. And I want to come home ’cause I love my family and I want to see my kids again. But I also understand that if it’s necessary to die then that’s a good way to die,” Doggart said during a March phone conversation with an unnamed militia member from South Carolina.
The Signal Mountain, Tennessee resident said in a recorded phone call that, “When we meet with this state, the people that we seek will know who we are. We will be cruel to them. And we will burn down their buildings.” He said if anybody attempts to “harm them in any way, “our standoff gunner will take them down from 350 yards. The standoff gunner would be me.”
Doggart eventually pleaded guilty to a charge of making a threat. Read the plea agreement below:
Doggart planned to attack Islamberg, a hamlet of Hancock, New York in Delaware County, which is mainly made up of members of The Muslims of America, Inc. The organization says about its community:
Members of The Muslims of America primarily consist of African American Muslims of the Sunni sect of Islam who are indigenous Americans with Islamic roots spanning four generations. The first generations were mainly converts from various branches of Christianity. Local law enforcement and neighbors have nothing negative to say about the Islamberg community.
“It’s kind of perplexing to us,” local Police Chief Craig Dumont said on New York’s AM 970. “All this recent media attention in regard to potential terrorist training camps and things that are going on there. We don’t see it. We just don’t find any of that to be valid at this time. … There are no active threats that we are aware of at this time.”
Doggart posted on his campaign website about visiting a Muslim community in Tennessee that he heard was a terrorist camp:
On Wednesday, August 27, 2014, I will be travelling to a suspected Muslim Jihadist Training Camp in Tennessee. I am not at liberty to reveal the location at this time, and am not going there hoping to find conflict. However, given the recent beheading of an American Journalist by the treacherous ISIS group, the Islamic networking that is underway in America, and the threats directed at us, there is no choice but to engage this topic, face-to-face, on location. It should be noted that I have contacted the City Mayor, and expect involvement by the County Mayor and the County Sheriff as well, to insure that the intelligences that they have gathered is known prior to making an unanticipated visit to a place about which I know little. A future blog will be posted to report upon this intrepid, yet innocent journey.
But when he went to the “camp,” he learned a lesson about believing what he read on the Internet:
What was discovered was that the local Authorities, and the neighbor (over the last ~18 years), saw no threat to their community. They informed that a number of Federal Agencies had visited the Camp and came away with a similar conclusion of no threat. In fact, they unanimously described the folks who lived in Dover as converts to Islam as good and kind people, and had a number of personal stories to that end. It is interesting to note that the Muslims there are apparently and exclusively African Americans who converted to Islam from some other religion. That is fine, as our Constitution provides for that fundamental freedom. And so, I am convinced that there is no threat, and that we must be careful in taking the subjective words of others, or rumor, or Facebook assertions of alarmists in this, and all areas of the security of our Nation. As a last step, Mrs. Rogers and I drove out to the Camp and were unable to see anything hostile there. As far as I am concerned, it should be opined that this issue is closed. No one need further concern themselves about Jihadists in Dover, Tennessee at present.
2. He Planned to Bring Members of a Militia & a Cache of Weapons to New York
The investigation into Robert Doggart, according to FBI agent James Smith, who wrote the criminal complaint, included the use of a confidential informant, a wiretap and a review of Doggart’s social media accounts. Smith said Doggart had spoken on the phone with a person in South Carolina about plans to burn down a mosque and other buildings in Islamberg as recently as April 9, two days before his arrest.
According to the complaint, Doggart said in a Facebook post that the “operation” would require less than 20 “expert Gunners.” He said Islamberg, “is vulnerable from many approaches and must be utterly destroyed in order to get the attention of the American people.”
Doggart called the FBI informant and said about Islamberg, “those guys (ought or have) to be killed. Their buildings need to be burnt down. If we can get in there and do that not losing a man, even the better.” He later talked about how he thought they could get in and out without being caught, because there are only four policemen in town and the fire department would take 35 minutes to respond, “and we’ll be long gone by then,” while the buildings would have burned down.
He met with the informant in Nashville and told him he wanted to make a Molotov cocktail to firebomb various buildings in Islamberg, including the mosque, school and cafeteria. During the meeting he gave the informant maps of New York and information on Islamberg and showed him weapons, including an M-4.
During a recorded conversation, Doggart said he planned to bring a M4 with 500 rounds of ammunition, light armor piercing, a pistol with three extra magazines and a machete.
“If it gets down to the machete, we will cut them to shreds,” he said.
On April 2, Doggart said in a recorded call, “I’ve got this battalion that I command and they want to go up to uh a place and take action. There is all these people all over the country that what to start what we call a flash point. … so sick and tired of this crap that the government is pulling that we go take a small military installation or we go burn down a Muslim church or something like that.”
Doggart said he planned to go to New York to conduct recon on April 11. The FBI arrested him April 10.
Read the full criminal complaints below:
3. ‘If a Muslim Did This, the Perpetrator Would Be Immediately Identified as a Terrorist’
The fact that the case originally received no local or national media coverage and has resulted in an outcry from The Muslims of America, Inc., the organization and community Doggart targeted.
The organization said in a press release it was notified about the threat and worked with state and federal authorities to provide Islamberg residents with around the clock security.
“Doggart is an example of the results of unchecked and rampant Islamophobia which has spread lies for years about our peaceful community,” the organization’s public relations director, Mathew Gardner, said in a statement. “This man plotted to mercilessly kill us, kill our children, and blow up our mosque and our school. We have sound reason to believe he has already visited our other locations around the U.S. What other murderous plans do he and his private militia have and where are his accomplices?”
“All would agree, if a Muslim did this, the perpetrator would be immediately identified as a terrorist then prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The examples are numerous,” Gardner said. “Therefore, we call on all branches of justice to see to it that this man is prosecuted for planning a heinous hate crime and terrorist act.”
Gardner highlighted that Doggart was not initially charged with a hate crime or terrorism.
“Unfortunately, in the same set of circumstances, our community would be facing unprecedented aggression and prosecution with labels of terrorism,” Gardner said in a statement. “We do not want to be victimized twice. Once by Doggart and again if this criminal is set free. Therefore we intend to give the judicial system any support they need to properly sentence him.”
According to the press release, Islamberg residents were approached on May 9 by a “suspicious pickup truck at the entrance to their property with an insignia on the back titled ’10th Mountain Division.’ When approached, the vehicle drove off speedily.”
The Muslims of America held a press conference on Monday in Binghamton, New York to discuss the case.
Honorable Hussein Adams, the organization’s chairman, said “our Community is traumatized,” according to the Islamic Post.
He said the TMOA is primarily “indigenous African-American Muslims who’s grandparents helped build this country.”
TMOA’s attorney, Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, said, “you cannot imagine the level of disruption Mr. Doggart’s threats have caused the community of Islamberg.”
She said the organization is working with the U.S. Attorney and the FBI, and is calling for new Attorney General Loretta Lynch to talk with them about the case.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations also issued a statement.
“If a Muslim had planned to carry out such a religiously-motivated deadly attack, he would certainly have been labeled a terrorist and charged accordingly,” said National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper. “We ask the Obama administration to rescind the plea agreement, which – as it stands – could see this individual free in the community.”
Hooper also thanked federal law enforcement authorities for thwarting the planned attack.
4. Doggart Received 9,200 Votes in the 2014 Congressional Election
Doggart finished in third place in Tennessee’s Fourth Congressional District race in 2014, behind the victorious incumbent, Republican Scott DesJarlais, and the Democratic challenger, according to The Tennessean.
He received 6 percent of the vote, about 9,200 votes, according to the Tennessee Secretary of the State.
Doggart wrote on Facebook about his campaign:
At this point, I believe the People favor the Independent. So, if this is correct, tell the “president” that “Doggart is Coming” to DC. I am smarter than him, love my Nation more than him, can work harder than him, will save our Country billions of dollars as I discover wasted projects, and will save lives by knowing how to implement an intelligent and fair foreign policy. I shall go wherever necessary, and carry whatever burden is required, for as long as I can. Last Saturday I was in Laredo, Texas, for a protest against Illegal Immigration. We had a bomb threat and a statement that “There will be bloodshed”. I stood in the middle of the Federal Reservation and proclaimed that “This is OUR Nation”, and we will not be frightened by criminals. That was for the second time. I will go again. And then there was the visit to Dover, Tennessee to fact-find whether or not a “jihadist” camp was in residence there. They were, but were benevolent. This story is long and hard, and I am tired of excuses and mistakes. Just like the rest of the American People. So, in short, I ask the People of the 4th District of Tennessee for their vote on November 4th. I shall not fail you, so help me God. And remember that the “president” will know that “Doggart is Coming”. He will find that this will be unpleasant, I can assure you all. And, I will not be corrupted.
Following his election loss, Doggart was one of the main speakers at a rally outside the White House. Video of the event was posted on YouTube:
He also appeared on the online radio show Reach Out America in March, and was billed as a “presidential hopeful.”
5. He Worked as an Engineer for 40 Years & Has a Ph.D. From LaSalle University
According to the biography on his now-deleted campaign website, Doggart was born in Saint Petersburg, FLorida. He attended Edison State College for his undergraduate degree and went on to get a master’s degree from LaSalle University. He also earned a Ph.D. from LaSalle in engineering management.
He is divorced and has four daughters and ten grandchildren. He says he has more than 40 years in the electrical generation business, working as an engineer, manager and superintendent. He worked for 17 year at the Tennessee Valley Authority, a federally owned corporation that provides electrical generation.
Doggart served in the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps, including two years as a unit commander. He is also an ordained Christian minister in the Christian National Church (Congregational) and says he received two Presidential Awards for Pro-bono Lifetime Public Service “from Mr. Bush.”
Duggart’s attorney used his political experience, career, family and accomplishments as an argument for his release on bond until sentencing. Duggart was originally held in custody until he entered his guilty plea at the end of April. The defense then asked for his release and it was granted by the judge. The government appealed, but the judge upheld the ruling.
Duggart’s attorney says his client has physical, including chronic pain, and mental impairments, including depression and an unspecified personality disorder. He is receiving psychological treatment as part of the requirements of his supervised release.
Read the court documents about his release below: