Former congressional candidate planned to 'utterly destroy' Muslim community in gun assault

Reuters / Ceerwan Aziz
A former candidate for a Tennessee congressional seat has admitted to making threats that included burning down a mosque, school, and cafeteria in a Muslim community in New York State. Despite the threats, he was released after posting $30,000 bail.

Robert R. Doggart, 63, was apprehended by the FBI before he took action on an area known as "Islamberg" near the town of Hancock in Delaware County, New York.

He accepted a plea deal in federal court, admitting guilt to one count of interstate communication threats, a penalty that calls for a maximum five years in prison. Doggart posted a $30,000 bond and will be monitored by electronic surveillance while he awaits sentencing.

In 2014, Doggart ran as an independent in the race for Tennessee's 4th congressional district. He garnered 6 percent of the vote, according to He "has worked in the nuclear, fossil, hydroelectric and associated engineering fields for the past 40 years," according to his profile on the site.

According to court documents reported late Sunday by the Press & Sun-Bulletin, Doggart was arrested on April 10 in Signal Mountain, Tennessee, by federal law enforcement. He was charged with solicitation, intentionally defacing, damaging or destroying religious property, and interstate communication of threats.

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The FBI was first alerted to Doggart in February based on statements made on Facebook.

“Target 3 [Islamberg] is vulnerable from many approaches and must be utterly destroyed," Doggart wrote, according to the plea agreement filed in the US District Court of the Eastern District of Tennessee.

He told an FBI source during a March 6 phone conversation that he intended to injure or kill those inside a Muslim school, mosque, and cafeteria in Hancock.

“Those guys have to be killed," Doggart said, according to legal documents. "Their buildings need to be burnt down. If we can get in there and do that not losing a man, even the better.”

During one recorded phone conversation, Doggart offered graphic examples of his strategy. Calling himself the operation's "standoff gunner," he was prepared to shoot people in the community, his lawyers wrote in the plea agreement.

“We will burn down their buildings (and) if anyone attempts to, uh, harm us in any way, our stand gunner will take them down from 350 yards away. The standoff gunner would be me," he said, according to the affidavit.

"We're gonna be carrying an M4 with 500 rounds of ammunition, light armour piercing, a pistol with three extra magazines, and a machete.

"And if it gets down to the machete, we will cut them to shreds.”

Doggart eventually met with potential co-conspirators in South Carolina who were affiliated with an unidentified militia group. He claimed his own M-4 assault rifle was "battle tested" as he solicited for extra "gunners" on Facebook. He told anyone interested in joining him that they should consider arming themselves with AR-15 and M-16 rifles.

He justified the action by claiming residents of the "Islamberg" community were “planning a terrorist attack."

Upon Doggart's arrest, the FBI found maps of Hancock -- which is about 145 miles northwest of New York City -- and information on gun laws in New York State.

US Magistrate Susan K. Lee, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, allowed Doggart's release under surveillance despite the objection of federal officials, the Press & Sun-Bulletin reported.

The Muslims of America Inc., an organization affiliated with the targeted Muslim community, said it will speak publicly on Doggart's plot at 4 pm ET on Monday in Binghamton, New York. The group issued a statement on Friday expressing dismay over Doggart's release on bail.

"Doggart is an example of the results of unchecked and rampant Islamophobia which has spread lies for years about our peaceful community," said Muhammad Matthew Gardner, public-relations director for Muslims of America Inc..

"All would agree, if a Muslim did this, the perpetrator would be immediately identified as a terrorist then prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Gardner added that Doggart should be prosecuted for hate crimes and for attempting to commit a terrorist act.

The predominantly Muslim community in upstate New York has often been the target of right-wing allegations that it harbors jihadist camps, though local police reported finding no evidence of such claims, according to The Independent in the UK.