A 63-year-old Signal Mountain resident and former Fourth District Congressional candidate charged with plotting the annihilation of a Muslim village in New York has entered into a plea agreement acknowledging his guilt.
Robert Rankin Doggart, of 183 Fern Mist Trail, Signal Mountain, is on federal bond awaiting sentencing in the case, which has drawn widespread attention in Upstate New York where the targeted community is located. He faces up to five years in federal prison.
The plea will be to a one-count bill of information charging him with interstate communication of threats. His attorneys are Bryan Hoss and Janie Parks Varnell.
Doggart was first ordered detained, however, Federal Magistrate Susan Lee later allowed his release on certain conditions after attorneys said he had weaned himself from pain medication and had stopped abusing alcohol. The government opposed his release, saying he remains a danger.
According to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga , much of the evidence against Robert R. Doggart was obtained by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents from numerous wiretap interceptions of the defendant’s cell phone calls authorized on March 15 by Federal Judge Sandy Mattice.
In addition to the phone calls during March and April, He also posted threats against the Upstate New York town on Facebook, according to an affidavit by FBI Special Agent James G. Smith.
Doggart “spoke on the phone with an individual in South Carolina as recently as April 9, 2015, regarding a plan to burn a mosque” in Islamberg, a small Muslim community near Hancock, NY, the affidavit reported.
Earlier, during a St. Patrick’s Day call, the former candidate for Congress “explicitly (said) the plan included burning down a school, a mosque and a cafeteria,” the complaint noted.
“In a call intercepted on March 17 pursuant to the wiretap, Doggart told a female, ‘When we meet in this state, the people we seek will know who we are. We will be cruel to them. And we will burn down their buildings (and) if anyone attempts to, uh, harm us in any way, our stand gunner will take them down from 350 yards away.”
“The standoff gunner would be me,” Doggart continued, according to the agent’s complaint.
As the conversation continued, the complaint went on, “We’re gonna be carrying an M4 with 500 rounds of ammunition, light armor piercing. A pistol with three extra magazines, and a machete. And if it gets down to the machete, we will cut them to shreds.”
He did not anticipate much trouble reaching the target community and carrying out the group’s plans,” the complaint says he told the woman.
“I actually think we can get in and out of there without getting caught,” he reportedly told her. “There’s only four policemen in town. The fire department is a volunteer department, so it’ll take them 35 minutes to get there while that building will be burned down already. And we’ll be long gone by then.”
In 2014, Doggart ran as an Independent candidate in the race for 4th Congressional District of Tennessee. He was defeated by incumbent Republican Scott DesJarlais in the general election on Nov. 4, 2014. According to his campaign announcement, he is an ordained minister in the Christian National (Congregational) Church and a former TVA employee.
Here is the Doggart plea agreement in Chattanooga Federal Court:
In or about February, 2015, agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation became aware that the defendant was communicating threats concerning an area located outside of Hancock, New York, and the individuals that lived in a community there. This area is known as "Islamberg," a self-named community consisting primarily of individuals of the Islamic faith. Specifically, in a Facebook posting in February 2015, the defendant wrote that "Target 3 [Islamberg] is vulnerable from many approaches and must be utterly destroyed ... " The defendant spoke with numerous other individuals (in person and over his cellular telephone) regarding his plan to attack Islamberg. The defendant justified his attack on lslamberg by claiming that the residents of Islam berg were planning a terrorist attack. The defendant stated on cellular phone communications that he planned to bum three buildings at Islamberg: a mosque, a school, and a cafeteria. The defendant was fully aware of the religious character of the mosque when he identified it as one of the buildings that needed to be burned. Additionally, the defendant suggested on a cellular telephone call that he and his group would kill some residents of Islam berg in order to carry out the plan.
On or about March 6, 2015, the defendant used a cellular phone to call a cooperating source ("CS") with the FBI. At the time of the call, the defendant was located in Sequatchie County, Tennessee (which is within the Eastern District of Tennessee). The CS was located in El Paso, Texas at the time of the call. The defendant made clear his ultimate plan was to injure or kill the inhabitants of Islamberg in Hancock, New York. During the phone call, the defendant told the CS, "those guys [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." In the same recorded call, the defendant informed the CS that they could not carry pistols from Tennessee to New York because New York does not have carry permit reciprocity, but they could bring their "AR-15s, M-4s or M-16s." The defendant, in the recorded call, informed the CS that he planned to bring his M-4 rifle with four magazines. The defendant then told the CS he could provide the CS with the "meanest shotgun on Earth."
When discussing the schedule for the operation, the defendant told the CS that "the drop dead date is April 15 because that's when those guys in OAF say they're gonna start a civil war." OAF is a militia organization with which the defendant had been in contact. The defendant took numerous steps in furtherance of the threats that he communicated, many of which were discovered by the FBI through its use of wiretap issued pursuant to Title III, and other investigative techniques.
At various points during the investigation, the defendant traveled to other locations to meet with individuals the defendant believed would assist him with his plan. The defendant traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, on March 17, 2015, and met with the CS. At that time, the defendant showed to the CS a map of Islamberg. On that map the defendant identified the buildings he intended to destroy. Also, the defendant carried firearms with him to Nashville, including an M-4 type weapon as well as a shotgun. Furthermore, the defendant traveled to Greenville, South Carolina, in order to meet with another individual the defendant believed was interested in assisting him. Even though this individual and the defendant did not meet, the defendant spoke with this individual on his celluar telephone and discussed the burning of the buildings, including the mosque, and other topics. These calls were intercepted pursuant to the Court's authorized wiretap interception. In other intercepted phone calls, the defendant stated that his "M-4" was "battle tested" at 350 meters, that he would serve as the stand-off gunner during the assault, and that he would shoot the residents of Islamberg during the attack. The defendant also solicited the help of other "gunners" via Facebook. The investigation of the defendant's threatening communications required significant resources and time by the FBI in both Tennessee and South Carolina.