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Feds argue against releasing 8 members of Michigan militia

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Prosecutors present case against militia
  • NEW: Attorney for militia leader: Government hasn't supported claims
  • Prosecutors argue that Hutaree militia members should not be released
  • The 8 suspects are scheduled to return to the U.S. District Court in Detroit on Friday
  • An undercover agent had infiltrated the group, FBI special agent tells CNN

Detroit, Michigan (CNN) -- Federal prosecutors are fighting to keep behind bars eight Michigan militia members accused of plotting to kill police officers as part of a revolt against the U.S. government.

Court-appointed defense attorneys argued Thursday their clients from the Michigan-based Hutaree militia do not pose a threat and should be free while awaiting trial.

Prosecutors described the defendants in court as a dark-hearted group with evil intentions.

"Great words weren't they? It's set to create an atmosphere of fear," said defense attorney William Swor, who is representing the militia's leader. "The government has to prove that its evidence supports that claim. And our position at this point is that they have not, and we will continue to push the issue to force the government to prove its claims."

The eight suspects are scheduled to return to the U.S. District Court in Detroit on Friday, and Judge Donald Scheer said he planned to issue orders for each before the Easter holiday. A ninth person, Thomas Piatek, 46, of Whiting, Indiana, is being held in Indiana.

Prosecutors said that even though the militia's hierarchy put more responsibility on some members than others, all the defendants should remain in jail.

Video: Attorneys argue for Hutaree militia
Who is more dangerous, the one who directs the one to shoot, or the one pulling the trigger?
--Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Falvey

"Who is more dangerous, the one who directs the one to shoot, or the one pulling the trigger?" said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Falvey in court Thursday.

The government began its investigation on Dec. 8, 2008, when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) was checking out a local federally licensed firearms dealer used by the Hutaree.

ATF's inquiry into purchases by militia leader David Brian Stone Sr. allegedly led Joshua John Clough, 28, of Blissfield, Michigan, to post on a militia Web site that federal agents were asking the group's dealer for paperwork. "We have and will return fire," the posting allegedly said. "The question is, will you?"

On Thursday, Falvey argued that Hutaree subordinates, such as Joshua Stone, often step up to the plate when their leaders are indisposed. The 21-year-old son of the militia leader was on the run for a while after eight members were arrested over the weekend, and he retreated to Hutaree's "rallying point" -- a training area with guns and supplies buried in the ground where the militia was to go if they came under attack, Falvey said.

Joshua Stone surrendered to federal agents Monday after holing up in a trailer with five adults and an infant near the rallying point in Hillsdale County.

The government said the elder Stone's plan was to create his own country carved out of four Michigan counties, then defend that country against attack by the "One World Order" army. The group allegedly planned to incite that attack by making a false 911 complaint, shooting any police who responded and then attacking funeral attendees with improvised explosive devices.

Prosecutors say militia members talked about burning the homes of the "brotherhood" -- or law enforcement officers -- and would shoot officers as they left their houses. Women and children of law enforcement were considered equal targets, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald Waterstreet said Wednesday.

An undercover agent from the FBI had infiltrated the group, FBI Special-Agent-in-Charge Andrew Arena told CNN on Thursday.

The undercover agent helped the group's members build "test" bombs, though Arena insisted that the FBI didn't instigate the activity. He said the idea of creating explosives originated among the Hutaree members.

"This was not the idea of the FBI to build these [explosives]," Arena said. "This was something they were doing long before we introduced the undercover agent."

The only bombs built by the alleged conspirators were apparently made from cardboard tubes containing explosive material -- no shrapnel -- and used in demonstrations and training, prosecutors said, citing videos.

The bombs were built by following directions found on the Internet, Waterstreet said.

The idea was to cut up metal street signs and use the pieces for shrapnel, he said. During the execution of the search warrant, some street signs were confiscated from the elder Stone's car, but they were not cut up, the government said.

Federal authorities decided to arrest members of the Hutaree militia upon learning they were planning an exercise in mid-April that might have included violence, Arena and prosecutors said.

The government says it seized 300 pieces of evidence during the execution of a search warrant served Saturday, including firearms, explosives, bomb components and shrapnel.

According to the government, the hierarchy of the group was as follows:

-- The elder Stone, known as "Raddock," "RD" and "Captain Hutaree," served as one of two squad leaders in training exercises.

-- His son Joshua Stone, who lives with his father and his father's wife in Clayton, Michigan, was the other squad leader.

-- His son David Brian Stone Jr., 19, of Adrian, Michigan, led the "opposition force" and was responsible for detonation of explosives in training exercises.

-- Tina Stone, who is the wife of David Brian Stone Sr., was in charge of communication with other militias and helped with Hutaree Web site.

-- Kristopher Sickles, 27, of Sandusky, Ohio, was the self-described leader of the Ohio branch of the Hutaree militia.

-- Joshua John Clough, 28, of Blissfield, Michigan, was an information officer, responsible for maintaining the Hutaree Web site, online videos, and explosives.

-- Thomas Piatek was a "heavy gunner" responsible for laying down heavy fire during training exercises, as were Michael David Meeks, 40, of Manchester, Michigan; and Jacob Ward, 33, of Huron, Ohio.

The defense attorneys complained that they have little information on the FBI's undercover agent and haven't been afforded the opportunity to cross-examine him. They contend that the only basis for their clients' arrests was speaking out out against the government.

"I think the concern is which groups cross the line," the FBI's Arena said. "Obviously there's First Amendment protected speech. In this country, you can say and just about think anything you want. The concern are those groups that are actually looking down the path to take action."

The nine have been charged with seditious conspiracy, attempted use of weapons of mass destruction, teaching the use of explosive materials and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence.

While it's not feasible that the group could have single-handedly overthrown the government, Arena said the sedition charge, which can carry a life sentence with conviction, fits the allegations.

"Their goal is not for these nine people to personally overthrow the United States government," he said. "The concept is, 'We are basically going to start the war and know that we are going to be martyred.' The goal is to martyr themselves and to start the revolution."

"You're not going to personally do it, but you're gong to be a part of it," Arena added. "That's the definition of sedition."

CNN's Susan Candiotti and Shawna Shepherd contributed to this report.