Man convicted of plot to attack Muslims will remain in custody until sentencing

Man convicted of plot to attack Muslims will remain in custody until sentencing

April 15th, 2017 by Zack Peterson in Local Regional News

Former Tennessee Valley Authority engineer Robert Doggart is escorted from the Joel W. Solomon Federal Building in Chattanooga on Feb. 16, 2017, after his four count conviction of planning an attack on a Muslim community.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

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A 65-year-old man convicted of planning to attack a Muslim community will remain behind bars in DeKalb County, Ala., until his sentencing hearing next month, a federal judge ruled Friday.

Robert Doggart was so convinced Islamberg, N.Y., posed a threat to American safety in 2015 that he was willing "to die either to stop that threat or bring public attention to it," U.S. District Court Judge Curtis Collier wrote.

Because jurors found Doggart guilty in February — and stripped his presumption of innocence — the former Tennessee Valley Authority engineer had to prove that he's not a threat to public safety to be free before his May 31 sentencing hearing.

But he didn't, Collier said.

"Defendant has done nothing to address the Court's concern that [Doggart] would see any release pending sentencing as his last opportunity to carry out the intentions he wrote about and discussed at length during the months before his arrest," he wrote.

Doggart's defense attorneys declined to comment Friday. They have said their client has numerous medical conditions that he needs to treat at home. For about a year and a half before trial, Doggart was on house arrest on Signal Mountain in Sequatchie County.

U.S. Assistant Attorney Perry Piper, who prosecuted Doggart with Saeed Mody, a civil rights attorney from the U.S. Department of Justice, could not comment on Friday's development.

At his trial, federal prosecutors said Doggart tried to recruit people from militia sites to attack Islamberg and burn down its mosque. Eventually he came to the attention of the FBI, which wiretapped his phones and followed him across Tennessee and into South Carolina as he planned his mission.

The FBI arrested Doggart in April 2015, and jurors convicted him of one count of solicitation to commit arson of a building, one count of solicitation to commit a civil rights violation, and two counts of making a threat in interstate commerce. There was no evidence that Islamberg was planning an attack, according to law enforcement.

He faces up to 10 years for each charge.

In late February, the defense asked Collier to dismiss Doggart's convictions because his speech could not be taken seriously and he therefore was not a "true threat."

Collier still needs to rule on that motion. After that, a federal probation officer will provide a presentencing report for the judge to consider before pronouncing sentence.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeterson@times freepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.