DETROIT -- Not guilty pleas were entered in Michigan Wednesday on behalf of eight members of a Christian militia that prosecutors say plotted to kill police officers and spark a violent revolt against the U.S. government.
Nine suspected members of Hutaree, self-proclaimed "Christian warriors" who trained themselves in paramilitary techniques in preparation for a battle against the Antichrist, were arrested after a series of raids across the Midwest.
All have been charged with seditious conspiracy.
Prosecutors say the group planned to make a false 911 call, kill responding police officers, then set off a bomb at the funeral to kill many more. An indictment said that after the attacks, the group planned to retreat to "rally points" protected by trip-wired explosives for a violent standoff with law enforcement personnel.
Federal officials said they began monitoring the militia last summer and they believed an attack was planned for April. Court documents said an undercover FBI agent and a cooperating witness were part of the federal probe.
Eight suspects were arraigned Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Detroit, including the alleged ringleader, 44-year-old David Brian Stone. The ninth suspect appeared in court in Indiana but no plea was entered.
In Detroit, all stood mute to the charges except Joshua Matthew Stone, David Stone's 21-year-old son, who pleaded not guilty. U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Donald A. Scheer entered not guilty pleas on behalf of the others.
In arguing for detention, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald Waterstreet told the court the suspects' conduct was at issue.
"It's not about a religious group," Waterstreet said. "It's not about the militia. It's about a group who decided to oppose by force the U.S. by using violence and weapons."
Waterstreet described the hierarchy of Hutaree, saying David Brian Stone led the militia and Joshua Matthew Stone was a squad leader. He said David Brian Stone Jr., the elder Stone's 19-year-old son, was in charge of detonations and explosives.
He said Kristopher Sickles, 27, of Sandusky, Ohio led the militia in that state and that others charged in the case had responsibilities including communications and recruitment. He said Michael David Meeks, 40, and Thomas W. Piatek, 46, of Whiting, Ind. were "heavy gunners" in charge of "laying down heavy fire" in encounters with the enemy.
In Indiana, Judge Paul Cherry ordered Piatek held without bond and that he be transferred to Michigan to face weapons and conspiracy charges with the other defendants.
A federal prosecutor testified that FBI agents found 46 guns and 13,000 rounds of ammunition in Piatek's home in Whiting, Indiana.
Defense attorney Jerry Flynn said Piatek denies he planned to participate in the alleged plot.
Hearings to determine if any of the defendants would be released on bail were being held Wednesday afternoon for leader David Stone and six others.
Meeks was expected to face a detention hearing Thursday. A lawyer for Meeks said evidence would be presented that distinguishes him from the other defendants, and that he denied involvement in any plot to overthrow the government.
Associated Press writers David Runk in Detroit and Tom Coyne in Hammond, Ind. contributed to this report.
Updated 1:57 p.m.
Hearings scheduled for Christian militia suspects
DETROIT -- Worried that a plot to kill police officers and kick-start a violent revolution against the government could be just weeks away, federal authorities moved to arrest members of a Michigan militia who called themselves "Christian warriors" as they prepared to battle the Antichrist.
"The time had come that we needed to arrest them and take them down," U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Prosecutors have said that members of the Hutaree militia, who had trained themselves to make bombs and use firearms, planned to make a false 911 call, kill responding police officers, then set off a bomb at the funeral to kill many more. Federal officials said they began monitoring the militia last summer and that they believed an attack was planned for April.
Alleged ringleader David Brian Stone is among nine Hutaree members arrested in FBI raids across the Midwest at the weekend. Each of the suspects is being held without bond and they have all requested a public defender. Bond hearings are scheduled Wednesday for 44-year-old Stone of Clayton, Michigan, and other Hutaree members.
Stone and his family, who lived in a rural Michigan trailer home, had always been devout, but his private devotions evolved over the years into the Hutaree -- a name the group's Web site says they created to mean "Christian warrior."
Stone's former wife Donna, 44, said his personal theology partly destroyed their marriage, but that nevertheless her ex-husband was able to entice her stepson, Joshua Matthew Stone, and her 19-year-old son, David Brian Stone Jr., into the militia that grew out of his faith.
"I honestly feel, and think, their dad never told either of those boys what they were getting into," she said. "This a bunch of garbage, these charges. There is no way my son would do these things."
Donna Stone said she met David Brian Stone in the late 1990s in a grocery store where she worked. He courted her and soon afterward, she and her son, Sean Stetten, moved into his small trailer in Lenawee County, near the Ohio state line. The boys were raised as brothers, and David Brian Stone legally adopted Sean, whose name was changed to David Brian Stone Jr.
Both boys were home-schooled and at night, the family would pray together.
"David would preach out of the Bible," said Donna Stone, who said they were married for about six years. "He would start at the beginning of Genesis and go to Revelations. He didn't get into Revelations because we didn't agree on it. David said it was supposed to be different. He had his own views. That's when I thought it was time for me to go."
The Hutaree Web site quotes several Bible passages and declares: "We believe that one day, as prophecy says, there will be an Anti-Christ. ... Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment."
McQuade downplayed the role religious ideology played in the group's alleged plans, saying the "most troubling" finding of their investigation into the Hutaree were the details of their alleged plot.
"What we were focused on here is their conduct, not on their religion. And what they have talked about is being very anti-government," McQuade said Tuesday. "They fear this 'new world order' and they thought that it was their job to fight against government -- the federal government in particular."
The group was preparing to carry out an attack sometime in April, prosecutors said, after months of paramilitary training that began in 2008 and included learning how to shoot guns and make bombs. Authorities seized guns in the raids but would not say whether they found explosives.
McQuade declined to discuss other specifics, including how the group originally came to the attention of authorities or how agents learned about the alleged plans for an attack in April.
Associated Press writers Jeff Karoub in Detroit, and Devlin Barrett and Eileen Sullivan in Washington, contributed to this report.