Published March 30, 2010
WHEATLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Members of a rural Michigan-based Christian militia who believed a battle with the Antichrist was coming were plotting to attack police officers in hopes of fomenting a violent uprising against the government, federal prosecutors alleged.
Seven men and one woman believed to be part of the group called Hutaree were arrested over the weekend after raids in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. The ninth suspect was arrested Monday night after a search in southern Michigan and was expected to be arraigned Tuesday.
FBI agents moved quickly against Hutaree because its members were planning an attack sometime in April, prosecutors said. Members had been undergoing paramilitary training, including learning how to shoot guns and make bombs, since 2008, according to an indictment. Authorities seized guns in the raids but would not say whether they found explosives.
Prosecutors said suspected Hutaree ringleader, 44-year-old David Brian Stone of Clayton, identified law enforcement officers as potential targets. He and other members discussed setting off bombs at a police funeral, using a fake 911 call to lure an officer to his death, killing an officer after a traffic stop, or attacking the family of an officer, according to the indictment.
The indictment said that after the attacks, the group planned to retreat to "rally points" protected by trip-wired explosives for a violent standoff with the law.
"It is believed by the Hutaree that this engagement would then serve as a catalyst for a more widespread uprising against the government," it said.
Eight Hutaree members, including Stone, appeared in federal court Monday. They were charged with seditious conspiracy -- plotting to levy war against the U.S. -- possessing a firearm during a crime of violence, teaching the use of explosives, and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction -- homemade bombs.
A standoff at a trailer in rural Lenawee County ended late Monday with the arrest of the ninth suspect -- one of Stone's sons -- who will be arraigned Tuesday, spokeswoman Gina Balaya of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit said.
Joshua Matthew Stone surrendered without a fight late Monday after the FBI played messages over loudspeakers from family and friends urging the 21-year-old from Clayton to give himself up. He had been hiding inside a trailer in Hillsdale County's Wheatland Township with five other adults and a child.
In the indictment, prosecutors said David Brian Stone -- known as "Captain Hutaree" -- organized the group in paramilitary fashion and appointed his son Joshua as an operational unit leader. Ranks ranged from "radoks" to "gunners," according to the group's Web site.
Stone's ex-wife, Donna Stone, told The Associated Press that her ex-husband also pulled her son, David Brian Stone Jr., into the movement. She said she also helped talk Joshua Stone, who is not her biological son, into surrendering during the standoff.
"It started out as a Christian thing," she said. "You go to church. You pray. You take care of your family. I think David started to take it a little too far."
After Joshua Stone's surrender, other adults at the home were taken into custody, but authorities have yet to decide if they will face charges, according to Andrew Arena, head of the FBI's field office in Detroit. The child was 1 or 2 years old, he said.
Other details, including whether those in the trailer were affiliated with Hutaree, weren't immediately released. Joshua Stone and his family were familiar with the area and may have done some training there, though not necessarily at the site where he was apprehended, Arena said.
Hutaree says on its Web site its name means "Christian warrior." The group quotes several Bible passages and declares: "We believe that one day, as prophecy says, there will be an Anti-Christ. ... Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment."
The Web site does not list specific grievances against law enforcement and the government.
The site features a picture of 17 men in camouflage, all holding large guns, and includes videos of armed men running through the woods. Each wears a shoulder patch that bears a cross and two red spears.
Heidi Beirich, research director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said her group learned about Hutaree last year while compiling its annual list of "patriot groups."
"Their Christian apocalyptic vision is quite different from most other militias," Beirich said. "Most don't put their religion first -- they're more concerned with out-of-control federal government."
The wife of one of the defendants described Hutaree as a small group of patriotic, Christian buddies engaged in survival training.
"It consisted of a dad and two of his sons and I think just a couple other close friends of theirs," said Kelly Sickles, whose husband, Kristopher, was among those charged. "It was supposed to be a Christian group. Christ-like, right, so why would you think that's something wrong with that, right?"
Sickles said agents seized the guns her 27-year-old husband collected as a hobby and searched for bomb-making materials at her home near Sandusky, Ohio, but added: "He doesn't even know how to make a bomb."
One defendant expressed anti-tax views during his Monday court hearing. Thomas W. Piatek, a truck driver from Whiting, Ind., told a federal judge he could not afford an attorney because he was "getting raped on property taxes."
The mother of another defendant, 33-year-old Jacob Ward, told police in Huron, Ohio, last summer that family members took away his two guns -- an AK-47 rifle and a semiautomatic pistol -- because she thought he needed mental health treatment.