The Tennessee man who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for planning an attack on a Muslim community in New York state was denied bond on Wednesday, despite repeated attempts by his lawyers to say he was at-risk for dying from the coronavirus, which is spreading through U.S. prisons.
In 2017, Robert Doggart, a former Tennessee Valley Authority engineer and 2014 congressional candidate, was convicted of recruiting people to burn down a mosque and sentenced to 235 months in prison.
In January, the Court of Appeals upheld one of Doggart's convictions but reversed the conviction of soliciting help to commit federal arson, and Doggart was scheduled for a resentencing hearing on June 17, 2020.
Beginning in March, Doggart's lawyers began filing for him to be released on bond, arguing the 68-year-old has heart disease, hypertension, and chronic kidney disease. The lawyers argued Doggart wanted to return to Hamilton County to be with his daughters. They said he did not pose a danger to the community because, despite soliciting help in attacking the Muslim community, Doggart "never even got into a car and started a journey towards that community," according to a motion filed March 26.
The lawyers argued in that motion, and following motions, the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in prisons put Doggart at risk of contracting the virus and dying, given his underlying medical conditions.
Outbreaks of COVID-19 in U.S. prisons have spiked in recent weeks. There are at least 588 confirmed cases in the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex, while the county as a whole had 601 cases as of Tuesday.
In Federal Medical Center, Lexington, where Doggart is held, there were 50 inmates and one staff member with the coronavirus as of Tuesday, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
The District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, in its decision announced Wednesday, said Doggart failed to show he has treated his mental health issues or that he is no longer obsessed with harming the Islamic community. The court said the risk of COVID-19 was not a factor in the decision to deny bond because Doggart's lawyers did not prove he is not an ongoing threat to people or the Islamic community.
Contact Wyatt Massey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.