Judge tosses mili­tia con­spir­acy charges

Says group’s po­lice-hat­ing words didn’t equal anti-gov­ern­ment plot

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation - BY ED WHITE

DETROIT | A fed­eral judge dis­missed the most se­ri­ous charges Tues­day against seven mem­bers of a Michi­gan mili­tia who were rounded up as home­grown ex­trem­ists ac­cused of plot­ting war against the U.S. The judge said their expressed ha­tred of law en­force­ment didn’t amount to con­spir­acy against the gov­ern­ment.

The decision is an em­bar­rass­ment for the gov­ern­ment, which planted an in­for­mant and an FBI agent in­side the Huta­ree mili­tia four years ago and claimed mem­bers were armed for war in ru­ral south­ern Michi­gan.

U.S. Dis­trict Judge Vic­to­ria Roberts granted re­quests for ac­quit­tal on the most se­ri­ous charges: con­spir­ing to com­mit sedi­tion, or re­bel­lion, against the U.S. and con­spir­ing to use weapons of mass destruc­tion. Other weapons crimes tied to the sup­posed con­spir­a­cies also were dis­missed.

“There are very few judges that have this kind of courage,” de­fense at­tor­ney Michael Rataj said.

The trial, which be­gan Feb. 13, will re­sume this week with only a few gun charges re­main­ing against mili­tia leader David Stone and his son, Joshua Stone, both from Le­nawee County, Mich.

“The court is aware that pro­tected speech and mere words can be suf­fi­cient to show a con­spir­acy. In this case, how­ever, they do not rise to that level,” Judge Roberts said.

Prose­cu­tors said Huta­ree mem­bers were anti-gov­ern­ment rebels who com­bined train­ing and strat­egy ses­sions to pre­pare for a vi­o­lent strike against fed­eral law en­force­ment, trig­gered first by the slay­ing of a po­lice of­fi­cer.

But there never was an at­tack. De­fense at­tor­neys say highly of­fen­sive re­marks about po­lice and the gov­ern­ment were wrongly turned into a high-pro­file crim­i­nal case that drew public praise from U.S. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric H. Holder Jr., who called Huta­ree a “dan­ger­ous or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

David Stone’s “state­ments and ex­er­cises do not evince a con­crete agree­ment to forcibly re­sist the au­thor­ity of the United States gov­ern­ment,” Judge Roberts said Tues­day. “His di­a­tribes evince noth­ing more than his own ha­tred for — per­haps even de­sire to fight or kill — law en­force­ment; this is not the same as sedi­tious con­spir­acy.”

U.S. At­tor­ney Bar­bara McQuade de­clined to com­ment. Two years ago, when mili­tia mem­bers were ar­rested, she said it was time to “take them down.”

The FBI had put a lo­cal in­for­mant, Dan Mur­ray, in­side the Huta­ree in 2008 and sub­se­quently added an agent from New Jer­sey, Steve Haug. Known as “Jer­sey Steve,” he posed as a trucker and spent months se­cretly record­ing talks with David Stone. He even served as best man at David Stone’s wed­ding. The wed­ding party dressed in mil­i­tary fa­tigues.

David Stone was recorded say­ing he was will­ing to kill po­lice and even their fam­i­lies. He con­sid­ered them part of a “brother­hood” — a sin­is­ter global au­thor­ity that in­cluded fed­eral law en­forcers and United Na­tions troops.

Mili­tia mem­bers cleared of all charges were David Stone’s wife, Tina Stone, and his son, David Stone Jr.; Thomas Pi­atek of Whit­ing, Ind.; Michael Meeks of Manch­ester, Mich.; and Kris Sick­les of San­dusky, Ohio. David Stone, Joshua Stone, Mr. Pi­atek and Mr. Meeks have been in cus­tody with­out bond for two years.

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