Three anti-Muslim domestic terrorists who plotted to blow up a Garden City apartment complex where many Somali Muslim immigrants lived were convicted on Wednesday on federal charges that could send them to prison for life. Five weeks into the trial, jurors deliberated for less than a full day before finding Kansas militiamen Patrick Stein, Curtis Allen and Gavin Wright guilty on all charges.
But it wasn’t just the trio on trial.
So too was Dan Day, the FBI informant whose hours of recordings ― which featured vile discussions of planned violence against Muslims, who the men called “cockroaches” ― were the centerpiece of the federal government’s case against a group that dubbed themselves “The Crusaders.”
Day’s testimony was at the center of the trial. Federal prosecutors would not have had a case without him. Defense attorneys said the plot would never have moved forward were it not for Day pushing the group to action.
The two sides offered up competing portraits of the 49-year-old Day in court. The government portrayed him as an “everyday guy,” a patriot and a hero who risked his life and stepped up to prevent a looming attack that would have killed countless men, women and children because of their faith, race and national origin. Defense attorneys said Day was an unemployed wannabe who jumped at the chance to become an undercover FBI informant and was willing to do whatever the federal government needed for a check.
In an exclusive interview with HuffPost, Day said it’s a relief to put this experience behind him. “It’s just so hard to believe this actually happened,” he said. He’s glad “justice was served” in the case, and thinks divine intervention led to his involvement, he added.
“I felt like it was a calling from God, honestly,” Day said of taking the risk of becoming an informant. “I’m not an over-religious person, but I believe in God and I believe he put me there at the right time, the right place, if that makes any sense.”
The father of two high school-age children and the youngest of 14 kids, Day grew up in Garden City, Kansas, home to the apartment complex the defendants ultimately targeted. Up until a few years ago, he worked as a probation officer and in juvenile detention before that.
His path to becoming an informant for the FBI is completely unique.
It began in July of 2015 with a trip to the local library with his son. He saw what he considered an anti-Israel poster, which featured a Palestinian flag and described the situation in Israel as apartheid. He tore it down.
“They have the right to put that up, and I have the right to take that down, in my opinion, so I did,” Day said of the incident.
Then he passed along a photo of the poster to a friend who eventually posted about it on Facebook. The post went viral.
Day was soon invited to a cookout attended by a number of members of a militia group in Kansas. Somewhere along the line the story got mixed up, and people in the militia believed that Day had found an ISIS recruiting poster. That wasn’t the case at all.
But the FBI, which was looking into rumors of the ISIS poster, interviewed Day and ended up being interested in him because of his connection to the militia. It wasn’t long before Day was working on the bureau’s behalf, giving the federal government an inside look at the larger militia group.
Then Day met the defendants. The difference between them and the larger group, federal prosecutors said, was that the defendants weren’t just talking ― they were ready to take action.
Kansas-based Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony Mattivi, who prosecuted the case alongside two prosecutors from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, told jurors that Day was an “average guy” who stepped up at the right moment to stop men who wanted to “blow up a bomb, flatten the building and murder every single man, woman and child inside.”
Day could have walked away, like the other members of the larger militia group who knew a plan was in motion but did nothing to stop it, Mattivi said. “That guy’s a patriot. He’s a hero,” he added.
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