Judge: Tennessee man accused of plot to blow up Muslim community is competent to stand trial

Naaji Abdul Alim, right, and other Muslims rally near the Joel W. Solomon Federal building Monday, July 13, 2015 to protest what they see as light treatment of Robert Doggart, who plotted to murder Muslims in Islamberg, N.Y.
Naaji Abdul Alim, right, and other Muslims rally near the Joel W. Solomon Federal building Monday, July 13, 2015 to protest what they see as light treatment of Robert Doggart, who plotted to murder Muslims in Islamberg, N.Y.
photo Robert Doggart

The Tennessee man accused of planning an assault on a small Muslim community in New York has been deemed mentally competent to stand trial by a federal magistrate judge.

In January, U.S. District Magistrate Judge Susan K. Lee ordered Robert Doggart to report for a mental health evaluation. On Friday, she said he could handle a trial, set a date for Aug. 8 and denied a motion to seal his evaluation results.

Authorities say Doggart, a Sequatchie County resident of Signal Mountain and a 2014 congressional candidate, spent months gathering weapons and plotting an assault on a Muslim community called Islamberg.

In July 2015, after federal agents learned of his plan earlier that year, Doggart was indicted for one count of solicitation to commit a civil rights violation. As protesters stood outside the courthouse, he pleaded not guilty to the charge and returned to house arrest after Lee denied a motion to detain him. Meanwhile, his trial, then scheduled for September, was reset to Jan. 19.

But in December 2015, his then-attorneys wanted off the case, citing irreconcilable differences. Shortly afterward, his daughter drove him to court-ordered mental competency testing in Kentucky.

When Doggart returned to court Friday, his right arm was in a sling. After clearing security, he pulled his pant leg over the boot on his left leg.

Although attorneys addressed a number of things Friday, his appearance in court was essentially an arraignment. In May, a grand jury returned a stronger, four-count indictment that replaced his original one.

In addition to solicitation to commit a civil rights violation, Doggart now faces one count of solicitation to commit arson of a building and two counts of threat in interstate commerce. Prosecutors said each charge carries up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised probation.

Prosecutors also strengthened the language on Doggart's indictment, adding that his threatened use of "a dangerous weapon, explosives, and fire" was designed "to intentionally damage and destroy religious real property because of the religious character of that property."

Doggart pleaded not guilty.

Attorney Garth Best asked that Doggart have internet access to find legal representation in Syracuse, N.Y. In March, Muslims of America, the corporation headquartered in Islamberg, sued Doggart in a federal district court in Syracuse, calling for a restraining order, civil penalties and a jury trial, records show.

Best said Doggart has until June 30 to respond to the suit, which also lists William Tint, of South Carolina, and nine other unidentified people who allegedly conspired to bomb Islamberg's mosque.

According to the suit, Tint pleaded guilty in September 2015 to "making a false statement to the FBI regarding a plan to commit a violent act against a person or property" involving him and Robert Doggart, "when in fact he was aware of such a plan."

Prosecutors objected to internet access. Best said Doggart's daughters may be able to locate a civil lawyer in Syracuse.

Lee said Doggart has until July 18 to file motions or reach a plea agreement with prosecutors. But he does not have to appear until his August trial date, she said.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at 423-757-6347 or zpeterson@timesfreepress.com. Follow @zackpeterson918.