Feds defend charges in militia case

DETROIT (AP) — Prosecutors on Monday defended their criminal case against seven members of a Michigan militia who are seeking dismissal of key charges related to an alleged conspiracy to rebel against the U.S. government.

A request for acquittal is standard practice when prosecutors finish their side of a case.

But U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts told jurors to stay home so she could hear what could be a full day of arguments about the merits of the evidence presented since trial began Feb. 13.

Michael Rataj, attorney for Tina Stone, pleaded with the judge to “put a stop to this nonsense” and throw out conspiracy charges. He said members of Hutaree were preparing for “doomsday ... the end of time,” not a violent strike against the government.

“These people are nothing more than political prisoners,” he said, referring to members of the Hutaree militia.

“They’re victims of arrogant and ambitious people behind this prosecution. ... They want to get a conviction no matter what.”

The seven are charged with conspiring to commit rebellion, or sedition, against the government and other crimes. There was no actual attack before they were rounded up in March 2010.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sheldon Light conceded there’s no proof of a “specific plan” to attack the government. But he said there’s much evidence in secretly recorded conversations to show the Hutaree wanted to draw in federal law enforcement by killing local authorities.

“I would not agree that there had to be a plan for a widespread uprising to constitute the conspiracy charge,” Light said.

The judge sharply questioned Light about defendant Tina Stone, the wife of Hutaree leader David Stone.

There is no dispute she was present and sometimes spoke during hours of conversations secretly recorded by an undercover FBI agent, but she doesn’t appear to be a consistent participant.

Roberts said prosecutors seem to believe that someone can be charged with conspiracy unless they actively disagree with the plot.

Light didn’t back off, even saying at one point that a facial expression by defendant Thomas Piatek “speaks volumes” on a secretly made video of a speech by David Stone.

“So much of this case is about people being present. ... Many things the defendants said are quite offensive. But so what?” the judge said.

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