By John R. Roby
Lawyers for a Muslim community have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit over an alleged plot to bomb and burn buildings, including a mosque and school, on the Delaware County property.
The suit, filed March 21 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, accuses Robert R. Doggart, William Tint and defendants designated John and Jane Does 1-9 of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act of 1994 by intimidating or interfering with people “seeking to exercise their First Amendment right of religious freedom to worship” at the mosque in the hamlet of Islamberg.
The FACE Act prohibits threatening or interfering with anyone trying to access reproductive health services, or attend a place of worship.
“In furtherance of their plot, the defendants compiled literature regarding Islamberg, the gun laws of New York, maps of rural Upstate New York, and information about law enforcement resources in the Catskills,” the suit claims.
Doggart, an ordained minister from Signal Mountain, Tenn., who unsuccessfully ran for that state’s 4th Congressional District seat as an independent in 2014, was indicted by a federal grand jury in July on a charge of solicitation to commit a civil rights violation and pleaded not guilty. The indictment states Doggart attempted to solicit another “to damage and destroy religious property (a mosque) knowing the religious nature of the property.”
He was initially charged with attempting to damage religious property following an FBI investigation that included intercepted electronic and phone messages sent between February and April of 2015. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in June, but a judge rejected the plea.
According to the FBI, Doggart planned to burn three buildings at Islamberg, and justified his plan by claiming the residents of Islamberg themselves were planning a terrorist attack. Court papers said the investigation began in February 2015 after Doggart wrote on Facebook that Islamberg is "vulnerable from many approaches and must be utterly destroyed."
Tint pleaded guilty in federal court in Greenville, South Carolina, in September to making a false statement to the FBI regarding “a plan to commit a violent act in New York.” He is awaiting sentencing.
Tint, of Greenville, South Carolina, is described in the lawsuit as a former Marine and founder of Operation American Freedom. The group’s Facebook page includes Confederate flag imagery and posts calling for the imprisonment of President Barack Obama.
The nine other defendants are described in the suit papers as “unidentified people that Doggart and/or Tint conspired with to burn buildings and kill residents.”
Doggart’s case has been delayed pending a court-ordered mental health evaluation in a Kentucky federal medical center. A report from the facility is due by the end of May.
The Press & Sun-Bulletin reported in 2001 that the FBI investigated claims of connections between foreign terrorist organizations and The Muslims of America, and cleared the organization of any wrongdoing.
Islamberg is one of several communities under the umbrella of The Muslims of America Inc. (TMOA), which describes itself as “a Sunni Muslim religious corporation” headquartered near Hancock. Residents comprise “Four generations of predominantly African American Muslims who trace their ancestry to the slave trade,” according to court papers, who reside in “private rural communities throughout the United States, including Islamberg.”
The lawsuit asks the court to order all 11 defendants to remain 300 yards from any TMOA property, to pay unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, and legal fees.