WICHITA, Kansas ― An overwhelmingly white jury will decide the fate of three white militiamen facing federal charges for allegedly plotting a terrorist attack that targeted a community of Somali Muslim refugees.
Patrick Stein, Curtis Allen and Gavin Wright (left to right) are accused of plotting to kill Somali Muslim refugees living in Kansas.
SEDGWICK COUNTY SHERIFF Patrick Stein, Curtis Allen and Gavin Wright (left to right) are accused of plotting to kill Somali Muslim refugees living in Kansas.
Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen were arrested and charged in connection with a FBI domestic terrorism sting that wrapped up a few weeks ahead of the 2016 presidential election. They’ll be on trial in a quiet federal courthouse in downtown Wichita over the next six weeks.
The federal government says they intended to slaughter Muslim refugees living in an apartment complex in Garden City, Kansas, whom they considered “cockroaches” and a threat to the United States. The trio allegedly planned their attack for the day after the election because they didn’t want to hurt President Donald Trump’s chances of victory.
There were only a handful of African-Americans in the jury pool called to the federal courthouse. Just one black individual, the daughter of refugees from Eritrea, made the final panel of 40 potential jurors. But she was ultimately struck from the jury ― almost certainly by the defense attorneys, who had questioned the woman about whether she could be fair to a group of defendants who thought refugees needed to be exterminated and referred to President Barack Obama as the “nigger in the White House.”
Gebilet, whom HuffPost agreed to identify by her first name only, said in an interview afterward that she considered it a blessing that she had been summoned in the first place.
“The immigrant community here is so small, to even have been selected is an honor,” she said.
She suggested that the defense attorneys probably decided just from her name and her appearance that they didn’t want her as a juror. And she wasn’t surprised by the ultimate makeup of the jury.
“Generally, minorities are not picked,” Gebilet said. “It’s a real shame that that happened,” she said, but she still has faith in the jury process in this case.
The lack of black representation on the jury is especially stark because it adds to the probable dearth of black voices in the courtroom. The judge has ruled that none of the potential victims of the plot will be allowed to testify during the trial, since they only knew about the planned attack because the government told them about it. The apartment complex the trio allegedly targeted is more than 200 miles away, so it’s unlikely many members of that community will be present in the courtroom either.
The final jury, including four alternates, is made up of eight men and eight women. It includes one woman who described herself as half-native American. That group was narrowed down from an initial 600 people who received jury questionnaires. The attorneys on both sides ultimately qualified just over 100 potential jurors after probing them extensively about their views on a wide range of issues over the course of two days.
African-American jurors faced questions about their ability to give three racists a fair trial, especially given the fact that the defendants had repeatedly used the n-word.
“It’s a part of life, it always has been,” one woman, a customer services manager, said of the slur. “It’s something that you have to move past.”
“I’m almost 60 years old, I’ve been hearing that all my life,” said another woman.
Yet another woman said she wouldn’t be able to get past the language and she was dismissed from the panel.
A number of potential jurors were excused for other reasons, including a former deputy sheriff dismissed because his ex-girlfriend used to date one of the defendants, Patrick Stein. Also, a man who said that the allegations made his “blood boil” and that the defendants were “guilty until proven innocent.” A woman who, upon hearing the term “weapon of mass destruction,” thought of her uncle who was killed in the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. A woman who used to live in the apartment complex targeted and got to know the families there.
One man described himself on his jury questionnaire as a “Western chauvinist” and complained about refugees moving into neighborhoods. He said he’d seen a lot of the world and was convinced that America was the best and he didn’t want to live anywhere else.
“I am 100 percent for America all the time,” he told the attorneys. “I’m very unapologetic about it.” He later said he wasn’t offended by those who called another human being a cockroach or a whole group of people an infestation. It was just a way of describing a group of people who have “overrun” an area, he said.
He also objected to labeling Trump’s travel ban as a “Muslim ban.”
“It’s not a Muslim ban, that’s just what they put out there,” he said, but he insisted religion wasn’t really the focus of Trump’s effort. He didn’t make the final jury.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Mattivi, a Kansas-based prosecutor with a high-and-tight haircut and an affinity for American flag socks, is leading the prosecution of the case alongside two attorneys from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division based out of the nation’s capital. Mattivi made sure the potential jurors knew he wasn’t an out-of-towner. “My office is in Topeka, and I live in Topeka with my family,” he told one group.
Mattivi also told the jurors that it was his job to make sure the trial was fair. He asked whether there was anyone who believed the government had no role in protecting civil rights. He asked if anyone had been bullied before. He asked them about their views on immigration and whether they thought the government should take religion into account when deciding who was admitted to the U.S. He asked what American values meant to them.
Many of the potential jurors with the most interesting views didn’t make the cut. The final jury does include a woman who had great concerns about immigration policy, a strong Second Amendment supporter with a Muslim friend, a man with a son-in-law who just immigrated to the United States, another Second Amendment supporter who advocated for gun rights on Facebook but said he’s not a fanatic, and a man who wrote his congressman recently hoping to do something about AR-15s.
Somali Man charged the deaths of 4 in fatal I-55 accident
STAUTON, IL – A Colorado truck driver has been charged following an investigation into a multi-vehicle accident that killed 4 people and injured 11 others. Mohamed Jama, 54, of Greeley, Colorado, turned himself in to the Madison County Jail Monday.
The accident happened on southbound I-55 in Madison County on November 21, 2017.
The fatal accident killed 2 sisters, Madisen and Hailey Bertels and a friend, Tori Carroll, and an out of state woman, Vivian Vu in another vehicle.
Authorities say the accident occurred when a tractor-trailer driven by Mohamed Jama failed to slow down and stop for cars in front of him in a construction zone.
By the time it was all over, 7 vehicles were damaged and the people inside them injured or killed.
The sisters attended high school in Staunton.
The deaths deeply touched Staunton where people knew the young women or knew people who were their friends. Many in town were still grieving the loss. Matthew Batson said, “I’ll hear stories about them all the time, even though it’s been five months? Yes, it’s a lasting effect.”
The Madison County State`s Attorney Tom Gibbon said if convicted of all the crimes Mohamed Jama could spend the rest of his life in prison. With summer coming on and more construction zone Gibbons says there`s a warning for all of us.
“Each of us out there in our cars we really need to pay attention, watch out, slow down you never want to see something like this to happen again it so terrible for all the victim I’m sure that no person would want to be the cause of something like this.”
Jama is charged with 4 counts of reckless homicide and 8 counts of reckless driving. He`s being held in the Madison County Jail without bond.
CANADA: Edmonton author aims to boost diversity in children’s book publishing
EDMONTON—Two years ago Rahma Mohamed’s then four-year-old daughter saw an Elsa costume, complete with blond braids, and pleaded with her mother to buy it so she would look “beautiful.”
That’s when Mohamed decided her kids needed more cultural inspiration than the blond princess from Frozen.
After a year of work, the first-time author published Muhima’s Quest, a children’s book that tells the story of a young African-America Muslim girl who wakes up on her 10th birthday and goes on a journey.
Now, Mohamed’s at work on her second book, which is due out at the end of the month. She’s on a journey of her own, she said, to boost diversity in children’s publishing.
“I wanted to create a character who had African descent and is a Muslim in a children’s book because I just found out that there were none that were available in the mainstream,” she said.
Her books show kids it’s OK to be different, she said. Take her first book: some Muslims don’t celebrate birthdays, she explains, and the little girl in the book struggles with her faith and questions why she doesn’t celebrate like her classmates do.
“The overall message is that we do things differently, but that part is what makes us beautiful,” Mohamed said.
She said she felt it necessary for her kids to see themselves represented in the books they read in order to “enhance their self-confidence, as well as bolster their sense of pride.”
Mohamed, who writes under the pen name Rahma Rodaah, self-published her first book and since last summer, has sold 200 copies locally.
“It does take a lot of resources and you have to self-finance, but I believe in the end it’s worth it,” she said.
She hopes to go bigger with her second book, which focuses on the universal concept of sibling rivalry, and features a young girl who plans on selling her little brother because she believes he is getting all the attention.
“My overall goal is to portray Muslim Africans who are basically a normal family.”
Mohamed says her previous book was well-received by parents at readings she had done at public libraries and schools.
“Most of them who are Muslims really loved that the kids could identify with the characters,” she said.
The books also acted as a conversation starter for non-Muslim families, she said.
She said, for her, the most exciting part of the journey is knowing that she is making a difference in shaping the minds of young Black Muslims.
“We are underrepresented, misunderstood and mostly mischaracterized. It is time we paint a different picture.”
When radicalization lured two Somali teenagers … from Norway
Acclaimed Norwegian journalist Åsne Seierstad spent years researching what happened. Now her book, “Two Sisters: Into the Syrian Jihad” is available in the United States.
Seierstad, who discusses her book Monday night at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, said she didn’t go looking for the story.
“The story actually came to me,” she said. “It was the father of the girls who actually wanted the story to be written.”
His name is Sadiq, a Somali man who worked for years to bring his family to Norway. He hoped for a better life. He thought things were going well, then everything collapsed when Ayan and Leila disappeared.
When the girls left home, their parents were in shock, Seierstad said. “They hadn’t understood what was this about. Why? And then as months went by and they got to learn more about radicalization, they realized that all the signs had been there. That the girls were like a textbook case of radicalization. And he [Sadiq] wanted the book to be written to warn others, to tell this story to warn other parents.”
It is a perplexing story. Ayan and Leila were bright, and opinionated. They didn’t put up with being pushed around.
“And that is somehow part of why they left, in their logic,” said Seierstad, adding that the girls were convinced Syria and ISIS offered a chance of eternal life.
“They believed that life here and now is not real life. Real life happens after death. And this life is only important as a test. So the better your score, the better you behave in this life, the better position you will have in heaven for eternity. So isn’t that better?”
Seierstad is known for her in-depth reporting. Her book “One of Us,” about Anders Breivik, the gunman who killed 77 people in Norway’s worst terror attack, is an international best-seller.
When published in Norway Seierstad said, “Two Sisters” became the top-selling book for two years running. What pleases her most is the breadth of her readership. She gets email from young Somali girls, and also from government officials who want to prevent future radicalization.