Militia Members Accused of Plotting War Against Government, Cleared of Charges

A federal judge dismissed the most serious charges in the U.S. government’s case against seven members of a Michigan militia who were being accused of plotting to wage war against the government.

U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts said the members’ expressed hatred of law enforcement didn’t amount to a conspiracy to rebel against the federal government. The FBI had an informant and an FBI agent planted inside the Hutaree militia going back to 2008. They collected hours of anti-government audio and video that became the cornerstone of the case.

“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,” the judge said.

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 alleged conspiracies also were dismissed.

“The judge had a lot of guts,” said defense attorney William Swor. “It would have been very easy to say, ‘The heck with it,’ and hand it off to the jury. But the fact is she looked at the evidence, and she looked at it very carefully.”

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

Prosecutors said Hutaree members were anti-government rebels who combined training and strategy sessions to prepare for a violent strike against federal law enforcement. The strike was to be set off by the slaying of a local police officer.

Defense lawyers said highly offensive remarks about police and the government were wrongly turned into a high-profile criminal case.

Attorney General Eric Holder 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,” Roberts said. “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.”

Undercover FBI agent Steve Haug, known as “Jersey Steve,” posed as a trucker spending months recording talks with Stone, even serving as Stone’s best man at his wedding.

Haug repeatedly talked to Stone about building pipe bombs and getting other sophisticated explosives. The FBI rented a warehouse in Ann Arbor where the agent would invite him and others to store and discuss weapons.

Haug told jurors he was “shocked” by Stone’s knowledge of explosives, noting it matched some of his own instruction as a federal agent.

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.

Stone believed that Germany and Singapore had aircraft stationed in Texas, and thousands of Canadian troops were going to take over Michigan. He also said the government put computer chips in a flu vaccine.

He had a speech prepared for a regional militia gathering in Kentucky in 2010, but bad weather forced him and others to return to Michigan. Instead, he read it in the van while a secret camera installed by the FBI captured the remarks.

“It is time to strike and take our nation back so that we may be free again from tyranny,” Stone said. “Time is up, God bless all of you and welcome to the new revolution.”

Swor said Stone is a Christian who was bracing for war against the Antichrist.

“This is not the United States government. This is Satan’s army,” Swor told the judge Monday, referring to the enemy.

Militia members cleared of all charges were 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.

“It’s hard to believe it’s over,” said Tina Stone, crying as she spoke by phone. “Thank God we live in a country where we do have freedom of speech.”

Ironically.

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