9 members of militia group charged in plot against U.S.
Authorities unsealed charges Monday against nine members of an armed militia group, accusing them of seditious conspiracy and attempting to deploy weapons of mass destruction, in a case that highlights a strain of extremism focused against the federal government.
The Michigan-based group, known as the Hutaree, allegedly had plotted to attack a law enforcement officer and then detonate improvised explosive devices to kill more officials gathered for the first officer's funeral procession. Members of the homegrown Christian militia accumulated weapons and explosives to target employees of the federal government, the law enforcement "brotherhood" and other participants in what they called the "New World Order," the indictment says.
Prosecutors say the leaders of the militia are David Brian Stone, 45, also known as "Captain Hutaree" or "Joe Stonewall," and two of his sons, who served as explosives experts and organizational kingpins. One son, Joshua Matthew Stone, 21, was apprehended Monday evening in southern Michigan. The other members of the group were arraigned Monday in a federal courthouse in Detroit. Attorneys for the Hutaree could not be located to comment.
Court papers suggested that the plans moved slowly toward action this year. The group first began laying a foundation two years ago with military style training and the stockpiling of guns and explosives, court papers say. To carry out their plans, Hutaree leaders allegedly collected materials and found information about bombs on the Internet.
In February, David Brian Stone reached out to an unnamed person to procure four explosive devices to take to a summit of militia groups in Kentucky, but snowy weather prevented the men from reaching their destination, according to the indictment. Stone had singled out an officer near his community in Adrian, Mich., as a potential target, prosecutors say.
The Hutaree announced a covert exercise for April 24, decreeing that passersby who got in the way could be killed, the indictment says.
"Because the Hutaree had planned a covert reconnaissance operation . . . which had the potential of placing an unsuspecting member of the public at risk, the safety of the public and the law enforcement community demanded intervention at this time," said Michigan U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. issued a statement describing the plan as "insidious."
"Thankfully, this alleged plot has been thwarted and a severe blow has been dealt to a dangerous organization that today stands accused of conspiring to levy war against the United States," Holder said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups, identifies the Hutarees as one of 11 militias in Michigan. The group's Web site bears the slogan "preparing for the end time battles to keep the testimony of Jesus Christ alive." YouTube videos display members of the group running across the woods brandishing firearms and wearing tiger-striped camouflage uniforms. Their shirt sleeves bear patches containing a black cross, two red spears, a V shape symbolizing the "supporting hands of the Hutaree" and the initials CCR, for Colonial Christian Republic, the court papers say.
Describing their philosophy, a Web site tied to group members said that "Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment." The site also contained hate-filled rhetoric about minorities.
A MySpace page described the Hutaree mood as "distraught" after FBI raids on Sunday in several Midwestern states.
The others charged in the case are: Tina Stone, the wife of the alleged Hutaree leader; David Brian Stone Jr., his son; Joshua Clough; Michael Meeks; Thomas Piatek; Kristopher Sickles; and Jacob Ward.
The seditious-conspiracy charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction carries a maximum term of life.
Andrew Arena, FBI special agent in charge in Detroit, said the case exemplifies the bureau's no-nonsense approach to radical fringe groups. Investigators operate carefully, in response to First Amendment protections, but they take steps to disrupt alleged plots as targets appear to move closer to translating their beliefs into action, FBI veterans said.
Staff writer Spencer S. Hsu contributed to this report.