Appeals court in Ohio weighing whether to release 5 members of Michigan militia until trial
CINCINNATI – CINCINNATI (AP) — Five jailed members of a Midwest militia threaten public safety and should not be released before their trials on charges of plotting to overthrow the government, a federal prosecutor told an appeals court Tuesday.
Attorneys for the defendants told a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the government has not proven their clients are dangerous.
The defendants are among nine members of the Michigan-based Hutaree who are accused of conspiracy to commit rebellion against the United States and attempting to use weapons of mass destruction, among other crimes.
A federal judge in Michigan ruled on May 3 that all nine could be released with electronic monitors and other conditions pending trial, a decision federal prosecutors appealed. The appeals court granted a temporary stay on May 10 to provide time to review the appeal.
The government has since dropped its opposition to the release of four of the defendants — two from Michigan and two from Ohio — but wants the remaining five kept in jail.
They are militia leader David Stone, 44, and his 21-year-old son, Joshua Stone, both of Lenawee County, Mich.; Michael Meeks, 40, of Manchester, Mich.; Joshua Clough, 28, of Blissfield, Mich.; and Thomas Piatek, 46, of Whiting, Ind.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen Moro Nesi told the judges that the indictment against David Stone, which charges him with conspiracy to commit sedition, includes counts of making and attempting to make illegal explosive devices. Nesi also said Stone led training sessions on how to use the weapons.
"He led these occasions and he was the one on more than one occasion using the illegal explosive devices," she said, adding that Stone talked of killing people.
Stone's attorney, William Swor, denied that Stone built explosive devices and said the prosecution had no evidence to back that up. He also said Stone has "no criminal or violent history of any kind."
Nesi told the judges that the arrest of his father and others sent Joshua Stone into hiding, and he gathered food and weapons for a two-day standoff with the FBI. While the standoff ended with a peaceful surrender, Nesi said, "it goes to show how dangerous he is."
She said Joshua Stone also described how to make and use explosive devices and at one point was quoted as saying, "Welcome to the business of killing people."
Joshua Stone's attorney, James Thomas, said his client was just a kid who was out in a wooded area southwest of Detroit with "guys playing games."
"There was a lot of chest-thumping going on," he said.
Nesi described Michael Meeks as a "heavy gunner" with a large arsenal and a trusted member of Hutaree who spoke of a need to get rid of the judicial system.
Meeks' attorney, Mark Satawa, said there was no proof his client was a "heavy gunner" or that he had any leadership role in the group.
"Mr. Meeks has never hurt anyone, has never assaulted anyone," Satawa said.
Nesi said Clough created training, survival and recruiting videos for the Hutaree. Attorney Randall Roberts noted his client is a 28-year-old man who lives with his parents and has no criminal history.
"He didn't have enough explosives to blow his nose," Roberts said.
Arthur Weiss, an attorney for Piatek, also noted his client has no criminal record.
The court did not allow discussion of the charges from the latest indictment, which was filed June 2, because it came after the appeal. It alleges possession of illegal machine guns or short-barrel rifles by David Stone, Joshua Stone, Clough and Stone's other son, 19-year-old David Stone Jr., who was one of the four released pending trial, which is scheduled for Nov. 4.
The judges — Boyce Martin Jr., Helene White and Raymond Kethledge — did not indicate when they would rule.