Robert Doggart and William Tint were going to be arrested in South Carolina for plotting an explosive attack on a Muslim community, a Federal Bureau of Investigation said today.
By March 26, 2015, the FBI had been monitoring Doggart, a 65-year-old former engineer at the Tennessee Valley Authority, for nine days. It had known about his plan since a confidential informant approached them earlier in the year.
But when Doggart mentioned using explosives to burn down Islamberg, a 70-acre home to many blacks of Islamic faith, he graduated to a "true threat," special agent James Smith said.
Agents were prepared an arrest warrant on Doggart and Tint, his alleged demolitions expert, during a March 29, 2015, meeting they had arranged in Greenville, S.C.
But with the U.S. Attorney's Office wanting more evidence for a future prosecution in Chattanooga, the FBI backed off, Smith said.
Doggart was ultimately arrested in April 2015 and has stood trial for four days now in Chattanooga's federal district court for soliciting people to join his mission and making threats over the telephone, federal prosecutors say.
Since Monday, prosecutors have played phone calls that Doggart made to would-be supporters in February and March 2015. He was serious about the attack and wanted to burn down Islamberg's mosque and use assault weapons to kill any community members who opposed him, authorities say.
Although his defense attorneys cannot present proof until the government finishes its case, they have countered that Doggart embellished several parts to supporters.
Doggart also shared specific details with family members who either didn't believe he would carry out his plan or acted bemused, defense attorney Garth Best said this morning in court.
Furthermore, Doggart wanted 10 people to join his mission, Best said. But in late March, he only had three confirmed supporters, and one of them was the confidential informant working for the FBI, Best said.
Earlier in the week, prosecutors alluded to a meeting that Doggart attended at the City Cafe in Chattanooga with three other supporters.
"That meeting," attorney Best asked today. "Who set that up?"
"Shane Schielein and the confidential source," special agent Smith replied.
"And who invited Robert Doggart?" Best asked.
"The confidential source," Smith said. "He was having lunch with Shane Schielein."
The FBI also investigated Schielein, one of the 10 people suspected of talking to Doggart while he planned his attack, Smith said.
In recorded phone calls from late March 2015, Doggart claimed he hadn't been able to reach Schielein in a few weeks. Attempts to reach Schielein, of Illinois, were unsuccessful this week.
News accounts show Tint pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about the plot and was sentenced to three years' probation in June 2016.
Update: This headline was updated Feb. 9 at 5 p.m. to capitalize the 'M' in Muslim