DETROIT – DETROIT (AP) — A fourth member of a Midwest militia accused of plotting to overthrow the government was released from jail Wednesday after prosecutors said they were confident that the strict conditions under which he was set free would ensure the public's safety.
Kristopher Sickles of Sandusky, Ohio, will be electronically monitored 24 hours a day, like three other members of the Hutaree militia who were released under the same conditions Tuesday.
"I'm very excited. This is the first step. God will see us through," his wife, Kelly Sickles, said after the hearing. She will serve as her husband's custodian while he awaits trial.
Five other members of the group remain behind bars, and prosecutors have asked the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to keep them there while they await trial on Nov. 4.
The nine are charged with conspiring to commit sedition and attempting to use weapons of mass destruction.
Sickles coincidentally appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald Scheer for instructions about his release, the same judge who ordered the nine to jail on April 2, citing a threat to public safety. That decision led to a series of challenges by defense lawyers and then by prosecutors.
U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts overruled Scheer on May 3 and said all could go home with electronic monitors until trial. The appeals court suspended her order while it considers an appeal by the U.S. attorney's office in Detroit. It is expected to rule by early June.
"We believe the conditions will reasonably ensure the safety of the public," Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Falvey Jr. said in explaining why he stopped opposing Sickles' release.
Sickles, 27, must stay at home unless he's at work, church, court or a medical appointment. His wife told Scheer that she "wouldn't have a problem" reporting any violations.
Sickles left court carrying his 4-year-old son, got into a car and gestured thumbs-up. His wife joked that they were going to Disney World.
The government says it seized 13 firearms from the couple's home on March 27 and thousands of rounds of ammunition, though there's been no indication that the weapons were illegal. In a court filing, Falvey described Sickles as a "regular participant" in militia training for violent acts.
In a phone interview from jail on April 17, Sickles told The Associated Press that he had "never hurt anyone or taken steps to do so." He said he joined the group to learn how to protect his family.
"As far as any specific plan to overthrow the government, I never heard such things," he said. "There was off-color talk, but there was no set plan to overthrow this or take over that."
Those still in jail are 44-year-old militia leader David Stone and his 21-year-old son, Joshua Stone, both of Lenawee County, Mich.; Joshua Clough, 28, of Blissfield, Mich.; Michael Meeks, 40, of Manchester, Mich.; and Thomas Piatek, 46, of Whiting, Ind.
Associated Press photographer Paul Sancya contributed to this report.