U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts has thrown out the seditious conspiracy charge against all nine members of the Hutaree Christian militia in Michigan, leaving only weapons charges for two of the defendants and eliminating the charges against the others. You can read the full ruling here.
The defendants were arrested two years ago for allegedly plotting to kill a police officer and then blow up the funeral procession for the officer, with the goal being to spark a broader war between the militia movement and the government. But Judge Roberts was highly doubtful of the strength of the case against them from the very start. The Detroit Free Press reports:
In a sharp rebuke, a federal judge today acquitted seven members of a Lenawee County militia group of plotting to overthrow the U.S. government with weapons of mass destruction.
U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts said federal prosecutors failed in five weeks of trial to prove that the Hutaree had a specific plan to kill a police officer and attack law enforcement personnel.
While the testimony showed that Hutaree leader David Stone Sr. “may have wanted to engage in a war with the federal government … it is totally devoid of any agreement to do so between Stone and the other defendants,” Roberts said in a 28-page decision.
“This plan is utterly short on specifics,” Robert said, adding that, “it is a stretch to infer that other members of the Hutaree knew of this plan, and agreed to further it.” …The decision leaves federal prosecutors with what legal experts described as a “run of the mill” illegal firearms case against Stone, 47, of Clayton, and his son, Joshua Stone, 24, of Clayton. Stone Sr. and Joshua Stone are charged with possession of a machine gun and possession of an unregistered firearm. The charges carry maximum penalties of 10 years in prison.
Roberts’ decision resulted in total acquittals for five other defendants: David Stone Jr., 22, of Adrian; Tina Stone, 46, the wife of David Stone Sr.; Michael Meeks, 42, of Manchester; Thomas Piatek, 48, of Whiting, and Christopher Sickles, 29, of Sandusky, Ohio.
Roberts acquitted all of the defendants of the most serious charges: seditious conspiracy, which carried a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Because prosecutors failed to prove their case on those charges, Roberts said she also was required to acquit the defendants on five other counts: demonstrating the use of explosives and carrying and possessing a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, which carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
The last two defendants struck a deal with prosecutors on the weapons charges. David Stone faces up to 41 months in prison when sentenced, and his son Joshua faces up to 33 months.
When all of this went down two years ago, I was on the Rachel Maddow show discussing the arrests. I pointed out then that the Hutaree were actually turned in to the FBI by another local militia. The leader of that militia — who is Muslim, believe it or not — even tried to help the FBI catch them by setting up a meeting with the Hutaree leaders.