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Most Charges Dismissed Against Hutaree Militia Members

By Bill Morlin on March 27, 2012 - 3:39 pm, Posted in Militias

A federal judge in Detroit today dismissed charges against seven members of the Hutaree militia who have been on trial for allegedly plotting to kill police officers in hopes of igniting a revolution against the government.

“The government’s case is built largely of circumstantial evidence,” U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts said in a 28-page order dismissing the charges before the case was sent to a jury.

“While this evidence could certainly lead a rational fact finder to conclude that ‘something fishy’ was going on, it does not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that defendants reached a concrete agreement to forcibly oppose the United States Government,” the judge  wrote.

Illegal firearms charges remain against two defendants, accused ringleader David Stone Sr., 44, and his son, Joshua Stone.

The defendants acquitted on all charges were: David Stone Jr., 22; Tina Stone, 46, both of Adrian, Mich.; Michael Meeks, 42, of Manchester, Mich.; Thomas Piatek, 48, of Whiting, Ind.; and Kristopher Sickles, 29, of Sandusky, Ohio.

“We’re just grateful to Judge Roberts for having the courage to do the right thing,” defense attorney Michael Rataj told the Detroit Free Press. “There was no case, no conspiracy.”

Rataj claimed the case was the result of “overzealous federal agents.”

When the trial began on Feb. 13, it was clear the case centered on whether the heavily armed Christian militia group was embarking on an armed confrontation with the federal government or merely living in a fantasy world of “recreation” and protected free speech.

The judge’s surprise ruling came after defense attorneys argued for dismissal at the end of the prosecution’s case. The panel now will deliberate only on the firearms charges against Stone and his son.

In her written opinion, the judge said the elements of a conspiracy may be proven entirely by circumstantial evidence, but that each element of the offense must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

“This is one of those times,” the judge said, adding that the court “is limited by what inferences reason will allow it to draw.”

“It stands to reason that most, if not all, of these Defendants had a strong dislike – perhaps hatred – of the Federal Government and law enforcement at every level,” the judge wrote. One could also reason that certain defendants wanted to harm or kill law enforcement agents. The evidence certainly suggests that (David) Stone Sr. strongly believed in the idea of a need to go to war with certain enemies.”

But, the judge concluded, the court “would need to engage in conjecture and surmise to find sufficient evidence that defendants shared a unity of purpose, the intent to achieve a common goal and an agreement to work together toward the goal,” as case law requires.

The judge said a guilty verdict on the conspiracy charge couldn’t be sustained because the specific goal alleged in the indictment – a “massive uprising against federal law enforcement after a funeral procession had been attacked” – was “referenced and only vaguely by one defendant, Stone Sr.

Referring to the trial testimony of the lead federal investigator, the judge noted the agent “admitted on the stand that over the course of his investigation of the Hutaree, the group never had a date, time, target or plan for any attack.”

“Vague antigovernment hate speech simply does not amount to an agreement as a matter of law,” the judge said. “The court would need to infer and speculate not only that the other defendants were aware of Stone’s desire to spark a war with the federal government, but that an agreement to do so in the manner alleged in the indictment was reached. Reason will not allow such an incredible inference on this record.”

Gina Balaya, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said the prosecutor’s office would not comment until the trial concludes, the Detroit newspaper reported.

In court documents filed last week, prosecutors defended the charges, saying they had proof that a plan to commit violence was under way before it was stopped with arrests of the defendants in March 2010.

  • Atticus

    Turns out the the SPLC are the conspiracy theorists since there “was no case, no conspiracy.”

    SPLC’s main lead conspiracy theorist should be dragged out all over the media and denounced as a fraud and no one should even bother listening to anything the SPLC/Hatewatch on the issue of domestic terror.

  • Joseph

    @Snorlax what a nice bigoted thing to say!

    They were found not guilty. And their weapons were returned. Most of the evidence against them was initiated by the SPLC Hatewatch joke.

    You know, the SPLC that praises the bomb-maker Bill Ayers.

  • Snorlax

    That judge must think Hutaree is a cross between a Hootenany and a Jamboree.

    Maybe when they start shooting at judges, he’ll change his mind.

  • Marshalldoc

    After watching a plethora of black & Muslim men being sent to jail for exceptionally long periods of time (the so-called “terrorism enhancement”) on obviously trumped-up charges, for conspiracies fomented by FBI informants, absent any weapons or explosives not supplied by those same FBI informants, it seemed to me that a groups of white militia wannabes who spontaneously planned to kill policemen, gathered their own collection of military-style arms & explosives, self-trained in guerrilla-style warfare, and other seemingly illegal activities, would be a slam-dunk for conviction of some sort.

    Stupid Me!! I forgot… the operative words are “white men”.

  • April

    Please, let’s not assume hate = insanity or vica versa. To say “That’s crazy” when you disagree with something or someone is okay. Taking it farther is another thing altogether. Bias against the mentally ill only increases with such occlusion of language that’s all too common, and increasingly so. As Roslynn Carter, who’s worked with mental illness for forty years says, every time an incident happens it gets worse for the mentally ill. And those affected by a mental ILLNESS, a brain disease, are much more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators.

    As for the pilot, it seems to me he was on a drug, or experiencing PTSD.

  • Bob

    I learned long ago to avoid checking the final adjudication of my arrests. Administrative errors happen and complete miscarriages of justice do occur. If taken as a personal affront and dwellt upon, it will drive you nutz. LE types serve better if they do [well] their duties and then just move on to the next job.

    In the Hutaree Militia instance, extremely serious charges carrying heavy penalties were being considered that should not be regarded cavalierly.

    The judge knows, we all do, there can be a large divide between knowing something to be true, and, proving something to be true.

    Once the Judge established her carefully cadenced remarks, she would have been remiss to have ruled otherwise. Any other decision would be an adjudication by emotion (‘feelings’)and the inculcation of a personal, albeit well-meaning, sense of justice that would be tantamount to ‘legislating from the bench.’

    Though the outcome may not always prove self-satisying [when applied to others], much do I prefer in a free society to have decisions affecting my liberty coldly and factually considered within set parameters and tenants of the law deemed violated.

    Herein, I yield the soapbox :)

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    One guy waving a gun screaming in the street isn’t a threat to the US government- but they’d still arrest him.

  • Matt

    5 armed barely literate people can’t be a serious threat to the US government? Ah shucks!

  • Reynardine

    Anna, do you mean Winston Churchill’s book or what appears to be a fantasy fiction novel?

  • Anna

    And the reason why I do not believe a shred of that denial that Mark Koernke had nothing to do with Hutaree, is that his son, Ethan Koernke, has been all over Ann Arbor with … well, read for yourself:

    Seems, the FBI has internal strife over what to do with militia/Klan members that are part of LE. I have first hand encounters with all that.

    I have read Gathering Storm and suggest a re-read of it.

  • Anna

    “That information “has proven to be utterly false,” the filing says.”

    About Korenke.

    Why do I and others not believe a shred of that denial.

  • Anna

    (1) Judge Victoria Roberts is an African American. Interesting.

    (2) “The FBI formally opened an investigation into the Hutaree militia in 2008 after two people claimed Webster Township militia member Mark Koernke was one of two leaders of the group, according to a court filing Friday by Todd Shanker of the Federal Defender Office.”

    IMO, “We the people” are being set up, again. The FBI can be the greatest Famous But Incompetent sideshow at times, but is this case a slam-dunk “lets screw it up as the results after screwing it up will be even better”.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    I’ll be a good sport and give the Hutarees who were released some advice to prevent them from getting arrested again.

    Guys, if you want to run around pretending your soldiers and giving yourselves code names that sound like Pokemon characters, just trade in the real weapons for airsoft weapons.

  • Gregory

    Ruslan, I guess they were lucky they weren’t caught wearing camouflage hoodies.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Arm yourselves, make threats against the government, all while training in military tactics- no problem!

    Be a young black male, get shot, and then you get condemned because you got suspended from school one time.

    Post-racial America!

  • Anna

    If those militia had posted such back and forth “banterings” on Facebook, Twitter, would it be “more serious”, a crime then? Despite the whimsical protected speech rulings? Were none of their violent banterings found on social media even in private mode? What about on the telephone? There are thousands of cases where such speech from the mouth of of others landed them in jail. Inequality has nothing to do with race, it has to do with how the laws are enforced on one group and not enforced on another. Inustices and inequalities that are killing this country from within is not as much in the streets as it is in the courthouses.

  • Anna

    If bantering back and forth about fomenting chaos, killing cops is protected speech in a bar, what about on a bus, on an airplane? On the sidewalk? In the office? By that judge’s standard shouldn’t the JetBlue captain who was locked out of the cockpit be re-instated? Where does this madness end?

  • ModerateMike

    I meant “conspiring”.

  • ModerateMike

    If the federal government is conspring to lock people up in FEMA concentration camps, Judge Roberts apparently didn’t get the memo.

  • Wayne

    The very idea of killing police officers to somehow ignite a revolution against the government seems kind of far off…

  • Gregory

    Damn those activist judges, legislating from the bench! /snark