Prosecutors: Phone tap reveals Signal Mountain man's plan to attack Muslim community

Prosecutors: Phone tap reveals Signal Mountain man's plan to attack Muslim community

February 8th, 2017 by Zack Peterson in Local Regional News

Robert Doggart

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Robert Doggart

Robert Doggart

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Robert Doggart had a busy March 2015, according to the federal prosecutors who want to put him behind bars.

Two days after the Federal Bureau of Investigation began recording his calls, the 65-year-old from Sequatchie County, Tenn., drove to Nashville to pick up a friend he'd met on the internet. They went to Ruby Tuesday's for lunch. And while Drake and Adele songs played over speakers, while waiters visited tables, Doggart outlined his plan to attack a Muslim community called Islamberg in upstate New York.

"The reason I brought these weapons was I wanted you to see them," Doggart told the man. "I guess I can tell ya — I've killed people before."

The man, whose first name was also "Robert," was an FBI informant. And the FBI was listening that day and several others, federal prosecutors told jurors Tuesday during the second day of Doggart's trial. The former 2014 congressional candidate and former contractor at TVA's Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant was arrested in April 2015 and faces one count of solicitation to commit arson of a building, one count of solicitation to commit a civil rights violation, and two counts of threat in interstate commerce, records show.

His conversations didn't end there, said prosecutors, who played a number of edited calls to jurors. The same day he visited the informant in Nashville, Doggart called his sister in St. Petersburg, Fla.

"Getting ready to go to bed," she told him. "What are you doing?"

"I just got in from my super long day," he said. "I had some guys fly in from Texas to meet me about my little project. So I drove to Nashville to lay out the strategy, tactics, weapons, types of bullets, escape routes, our objectives. All those things."

The reply was disinterested. "OK," she said.

Three days later, Doggart phoned a man who claimed he was the leader of a Texas militia at 1:20 in the morning and left a voicemail: "I was unable to establish that secure line because I'm not aware of how to do that. At this point, I don't care how important security is because the National Security Agency and Homeland Security already listen to all of my telephone calls and computer communications. And they're listening to this phone call, so I might as well say 'Hello' one more time."

As Doggart's defense attorneys argued, Doggart exaggerated or lied about a number of things in several phone calls.

He only met with one man in Nashville, not the multiple "guys" like he told his sister. He never served in the military, even though he told the informant in Nashville that a commander embraced him like a son during his multiple-year career in the Navy. There was no evidence he had ever killed anybody, FBI agent James Smith said. And, neither the NSA nor DHS were monitoring his communications before the FBI stepped in, Smith added.

Doggart did use a go-to speech in March while he was trying to recruit people to join his 10-man squad, defense attorney Garth Best said. Because he was convinced Islamberg was planning to poison the Delaware River or attack New York City, Doggart wanted to scope out the area first, Best said. And during that planning period, he would often say, "We will be cruel to them. They will know who we are."

Doggart cribbed that line, however, from the Quentin Tarantino movie, "Inglourious Basterds," Best said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Perry Piper, who played all the calls, didn't dispute that point, but argued that Doggart was still capable of violence.

He asked jurors to examine a letter that federal agents found in Doggart's home during his arrest in April 2015. One month later, before he could carry out his attack, Doggart's speech had evolved, Piper said. It now included graphic threats toward Muslims about vanquishing their "evil," and wanting to see their "deformed" and "bullet-ridden" bodies taken off the Earth.

Doggart's trial, expected to last a week, continues this morning in U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier's courtroom at 9 a.m.

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


Updated Feb. 8 at 11:10 p.m. with additional information.


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