Michigan Appeals Court Opposes Release of Hutaree Militia Members
DETROIT - A federal appeals court on Tuesday reversed a judge's decision ordering the release on bond of five Lenawee County, Mich., Christian militia members, saying they are a potential public threat.
"We find that each defendant poses a danger to the community and that no conditions of release will reasonably assure the safety of the community," a three-judge panel of the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals said about the defendants.
U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts of Detroit had ordered the release of the defendants in a decision in May, prompting federal prosecutors to appeal.
Tuesday's decision applies to David Stone Sr., 45, of Clayton, Mich., who is accused of leading the Hutaree militia group that prosecutors said plotted the violent overthrow of the government. The decision also affects his son, Joshua Stone, 21, of Clayton; Michael Meeks, 40, of Manchester, Mich., Thomas Piatek, 47, of Whiting, Ind., and Joshua Clough, 28, of Blissfield, Mich.
Federal prosecutors agreed recently to the release of several other members of the group on bond pending trial.
The decision was signed by judges Boyce Martin, Raymond Kethledge and Helene White. White agreed with the other two about the Stones and Michael Meeks, but disagreed about Piatek and Clough.
"I also write separately to observe that I find this to be a far closer call than the majority opinion would indicate, " White said.
She added that the group and its members had never taken any action except for field training and that comments Hutaree members made in conversations taped by the FBI appeared to be in jest.
She said the tape recordings did not reveal a specific plan or plot to commit any of the charged offenses, just an interest in doing so.
The Hutaree members are charged with seditious conspiracy, attempting to use weapons of mass destruction and possession of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. David Stone and David Stone Jr. also are charged with teaching/demonstrating use of explosives.
Prosecutors said the group was plotting to kill cops and had planned a potentially lethal operation when FBI agents arrested them in late March. Defense lawyers said the suspects were big talkers, but never acted.
Piatek's lawyer, Arthur Weiss of Farmington Hills, said he was disappointed by the decision. Contrary to the opinion, Weiss said, Piatek had never expressed hatred for law enforcement and that he had never threatened his girlfriend. Weiss said he plans to ask the appeals court to let Robert address those two issues.
There was no immediate comment from the U.S. Attorney's Office of defense lawyers.