…THEN YOU WIN! – Judge acquits 5 Hutaree militia members of all charges; (2 face only weapons counts)
Will cover on the radio show tomorrow… Thanks to all who helped out.
This combo of eight file photos provided by the U.S. Marshals Service on Monday March 29, 2010 shows from top left, David Brian Stone Sr., 44, of Clayton, Mich, ; David Brian Stone Jr. of Adrian, Mich,; Jacob Ward, 33, of Huron, Ohio,; Tina Mae Stone and bottom row from left, Michael David Meeks, 40, of Manchester, Mich,; Kristopher T. Sickles, 27, of Sandusky, Ohio; Joshua John Clough, 28, of Blissfield, Mich.; and Thomas William Piatek, 46, of Whiting, Ind. A judge ordered on Monday May 3, 2010 that the jailed members of a Michigan militia be released, saying there’s no risk to the public if they go home while awaiting trial on charges of trying to plot war against the government. / AP Photo/U.S. Marshall, File
In a startling development, a federal judge today acquitted seven Hutaree members of all conspiracy charges, concluding there was not enough evidence that they plotted a violent revolt against the government that included killing a police officer and bombing a funeral.
U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts dismissed all charges against five of the defendants. But illegal weapons charges remain against two defendants, the accused ringleader David Stone Sr. and his son Joshua Stone.
The defendants acquitted of all charges are Tina Stone, 46; David Stone Jr., 22, of Adrian; Michael Meeks, 42, of Manchester; Thomas Piatek, 48, of Whiting, Ind., and Kristopher Sickles, 29, of Sandusky, Ohio.
“We’re just grateful to Judge Roberts for having the courage to do the right thing .l.l. very few judges have that kind of courage,” said attorney Michael Rataj, who is representing Tina Stone.
“There was no case. There was no conspiracy,” Rataj argued, further claiming the case was the result of overzealous federal agents.
In the 28-page decision, Roberts wrote: “The evidence is not sufficient for a rational factfinder to find that defendants came to a concrete agreement to forcibly oppose the authority of the government of the United States as charged in the indictment.”
She said prosecutors shifted positions since the defendants were indicted. She said the indictment charges a specific plan to overthrow the United States government. She said prosecutors now argue that there was a general plan to engage in violence to provoke a response from law enforcement.
“The prosecution is not free to roam at large – to shift its theory of criminality so as to take advantage of each passing vicissitude of the trial,” Roberts said. “If the government now admits that the plan alleged in Count 1 of the indictment (seditious conspiracy) did not exist, then defendants must be acquitted.”
She continued: “The inescapable conclusion of such a tactic is that the government recognizes that its proofs at trial failed to establish the plan described in the indictment, so it is attempting to formulate an alternative theory of criminal liability…”
Gina Balaya, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office, said the prosecutor’s office is going to withhold any comment until the trial is over.
In court documents filed last week, prosecutors defended the charges, saying they had proof that a violent plan was in the works, and that the government stopped it before it took effect.
“That there was no specific date, place, or target for this conflict – or that it was not certain whether the Hutaree intended to initiate the conflict or simply to engage in it once initiated by other forces is of no moment,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sheldon Light and Christopher Graveline wrote. “The evidence supports the conclusion that there was a plan, an agreement, among these defendants and others to join in opposing by force the Government of the United States when the time came.”
Today’s acquittal comes just days after the government rested its case before the jury by videos of bomb explosions.
Those acquitted faced up to life in prison.
Attorney Art Weiss, who represented Thomas Piatek, 48, of Whiting Ind., said he was “ecstatic” after learning about the acquittals.
“It’s ironic that today marks exactly two years that Mr. Piatek has been incarcerated,” said Weiss, who has long argued that his client was wrongfully locked up pending trial. “I don’t know if he will ever get back the two years that were taken from him.”
Weiss also said that Roberts’ ruling proved a point that the defense had argued all along: The defendants were merely engaged in tough talking, which is covered by Free Speech rights, and that there was never any real plan to harm anyone.
“ Some of the defendants did say things that perhaps they shouldn’t have said .. but they had a right to say it,” Weiss told the Free Press today, saying “it’s unfortunate that people are getting indicted” for speaking their minds. “It’s the thought police. The government should not be so sensitive that they take away First Amendment freedoms simply because someone says something they don’t’ like.”
As for his client, Piatek, Weiss argued that Piatek “never uttered a hateful or spiteful word against anyone, including law enforcement. And he never did anything that would either be seditious or illegal.”
Initially, nine defendants were arrested in separate raids in March 2010. One of the defendants pleaded guilty.
The other was declared incompetent to stand trial.
- Feds defend charges in Hutaree militia case
- Hutaree jurors view video of explosion re-enactments
- Hutaree defense seeks mistrial, accuses U.S. of withholding information