Federal judge dismisses charges against US militia group

[JURIST] Judge Victoria Roberts of the US District Court in the Eastern District of Michigan [official website] on Tuesday issued an order [text, PDF] dismissing the case against Hutaree [CNN backgrounder; JURIST news archive] militia members before it was submitted to a jury. Roberts held that the government did not sufficiently prove the elements of the charges of seditious conspiracy, conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and other weapons related charges in the case of United States v. Stone [case docket]. The government asserted that the Hutaree militia's primary aim was to fight law enforcement authorities who belonged to the "New World Order" with the goal of drawing federal law enforcement into a war. Lawyers for the Hutaree militia maintained that the anti-government statements made by militant members were not serious threats and were made only in frustration. In her order, Roberts wrote:

The Government has consistently maintained that this case is not about freedom of speech or association, but about the specific acts of violence alleged in the Indictment. ... However, much of the Government's evidence against Defendants at trial was in the form of speeches, primarily by Stone, Sr., who frequently made statements describing law enforcement as the enemy, discussing the killing of police officers, and the need to go to war.
The order contained a specific articulation of the various charges and explained the shortcomings of the government's prosecution.

The trial began [JURIST report] in Robert's courtroom in February. In May 2010 Roberts granted bail for the nine members of the group. Roberts ruled that bail would be granted [JURIST report] but that the eight men and one woman must relinquish weapons and weapons permits, remain confined to their homes and be kept under electronic surveillance. The group members allegedly planned to kill Michigan law enforcement officers by, among other methods, making phony 911 calls and ambushing those who responded. There is some evidence that right-wing nativist and so-called "patriot" anti-government militias such as the Hutaree are on the rise in the US. A 2009 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) [advocacy website] noted that these groups are making a comeback [JURIST report] after declining for a number of years. The SPLC said that such groups are generally anti-tax, anti-immigration, and increasingly racially motivated since the election of the country's first African-American president, Barack Obama. The SPLC also warned that these groups could soon pose a security risk to the country, quoting one official as saying "[a]ll it's lacking is a spark. I think it's only a matter of time before you see threats and violence."

 

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