Opening arguments in Day 1 of Hutaree militia trial

Feb 13, 2012

You'll be seeing a lot of news about the trial of seven militia members accused of plotting a violent uprising against the government in the coming weeks.

Their trial got underway today in U.S. District Court in Detroit with Judge Victoria Roberts presiding.

A little background - nine Hutaree militia members were arrested in March of 2010.

Prosecutors say they were plotting to kill an unidentified police officer in April 2010, and to follow up that attack with more attacks on officers gathering for a funeral for the police officer.

A federal grand jury indicted the nine "on charges of seditious conspiracy, attempted use of weapons of mass destruction, teaching the use of explosive materials, and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence."

One of the nine initial defendants, two are not part of this trial:

  • Joshua Clough of Blissfield, Michigan made a deal with prosecutors and could be called as a witness during the trial.
  • Jacob Warn of Huron, Ohio was found temporarily incompetent to stand trial. He's expected to be tried later.

Twelve jurors and four alternates were selected during a final round of jury selection this morning in Detroit.

Judge Victoria Roberts told those chosen that the job is a "heavy responsibility."

In the courtroom

The Detroit Free Press' David Ashenfelter was live-blogging during the opening statements of the trial and gave us an insight to the strategy the prosecutors and the defense lawyers will take;

Defense lawyers say the militia members were not planning to actually carry out what they were talking about. Ashenfelter posted that defense attorney William Swor said this to the jury during his opening statement:

“You will have to decide whether this is a real conspiracy or David Stone exercising his God-given right to blow off steam and open his mouth,” Swor said. “The United States government has never been the enemy of David Stone or his family… These are ordinary people living ordinary lives. Doing this stuff was merely their form of recreation.”

The prosecutors are arguing that this was not idle talk by the militia members. They say the threat was real. Again from Ashenfelter's blog post:

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Graveline said David Stone Sr. encouraged Hutaree members to have go-bags of weapons and ammunition ready to go on a moment’s notice when the war started. Their equipment included bulletproof vests, sniper suits, Kevlar helmets, night vision goggles.

“They were ready, willing and able to go to war,” Graveline told the jury, adding that the Hutaree was planning an operation for April 2010. “They practiced military-style exercises at David Stone Sr.’s home and other locations.

The FBI found out what was going on with the help of two informants, Graveline said.