By Laila Kearney
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Tennessee man accused of plotting to burn down a mosque in the heart of a Muslim hamlet in rural New York and start a gun battle with residents has pleaded not guilty and faces trial in September, court records showed on Tuesday.
Robert Doggart, 63, pleaded not guilty on Monday in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to a charge of solicitation to commit a civil rights violation. His trial was set to begin on Sept. 21.
Doggart, who made a failed bid for the U.S. Congress in 2014 as an independent with highly conservative views, was arrested in April and pleaded guilty to interstate communication of threats as part of a plea agreement. The agreement was later thrown out.
Doggart was indicted this month on a charge of "soliciting others to violate federal civil rights laws by intentionally defacing, damaging or destroying religious property, because of the religious character of that property, or attempting to do so."
If convicted, Doggart faces up to 10 years in prison. He has been ordered to house detention since his arrest on $30,000 bond.
As a result of information gleaned from wire-tapped phone calls to FBI informants and comments on social media, Doggart is suspected of attempting to round up militia and weapons to attack the community of Holy Islamberg in the remote Catskill Mountains in upstate New York.
Islamberg, about 150 miles northwest of New York City, is a settlement of some 200 people formed in the 1970s by African-American Muslims following a Pakistani Sufi cleric who fled major cities to practice their religion in seclusion.
It is one of more than a dozen such settlements that make up the Muslims of America, Inc. Conservative online forums say the group is secretly training terrorists.
Doggart's attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office, the group prosecuting the case, did not immediately provide comment.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Mohammad Zargham)