May 3, 2010
A federal judge in Detroit today ordered the release of nine members of a Lenawee County Christian militia group freed on bond over the objections of federal prosecutors.
“The United States is correct that it need not wait until people are killed before it arrests conspirators,” U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts said in a 36-page decision. “But, the Defendants are also correct: their right to engage in hate-filled, venomous speech, is a right that deserves First Amendment protection.”
She said federal prosecutors failed to persuade her that the defendants must be jailed until trial.
It is unclear whether the U.S. Attorney’s Office will appeal the decision.
“We will be reviewing and weighing all of our options,” said spokeswoman Susan Plochinski of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Roberts said the defendants could be freed under house arrest on electronic tethers. They must surrender their concealed weapons permits, cannot apply for a license to purchase or carry guns and cannot drink alcohol or take drugs.
She said they must continue to work and report to pretrial services on a weekly basis.
Robert said the defendants also must provide a list of names, addresses, and phone numbers for all Hutaree members and members of any other militia groups they associated with.
Roberts put more than two dozen restrictions on the group, altogether.
The defendants are David Stone, 45, Tina Stone, 44, and Joshua Stone, 21, all of Clayton; another son, David Stone Jr., 19, of Adrian; Joshua Clough, 28, of Blissfield; Michael Meeks, 40, of Manchester; Kristopher Sickles, 27, of Sandusky, Ohio, Jacob Ward, 33, of Huron, Ohio; and Thomas Piatek, 46, of Whiting, Ind.
A federal indictment says the defendants, led by the elder David Stone, belonged to the Hutaree, a Christian militia that planned to attack local, state and federal law enforcement officers, among other officials.
All nine 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 explosive materials.
The weapons of mass destruction charge, the most serious, carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Absent an appeal and request for a stay from the judge, authorities said the nine would be brought to the U.S. Courthouse in Detroit on Tuesday for release.
“We’re excited but I haven’t digested the order yet,” said William Swor of Detroit, who represents David Stone, the alleged leader of the group. Another defense attorney, Michael Rataj, said defense lawyers are waiting to see if the U.S. Attorney’s office decides to appeal Roberts’ order and ask her to delay implementing the decision.
But Rataj said Roberts indicated in the decision that she wasn’t interested in granting a stay.
The defendants are being held in jails in several counties, including Sanilac, St. Clair and Wayne.