Several of the Hutaree Militia Members Entered Not Guilty Pleas
Undercover Agent Attended Hutaree Training Camps
By EMILY FRIEDMAN and TAHMAN BRADLEY
DETROIT March 31, 2010
An Internet posting declaring war on a government agency was what provoked federal law enforcement to close in on the nine Christian extremist militia members who are now charged with plotting an attack on police.
The account was revealed today when eight of the nine members of the group, the Hutaree, entered not guilty pleas at an arraignment today at a U.S. District Court in Detroit.
The ninth member, Thomas Piatek, was ordered held without bond in an Indiana court room until he is transferred to Michigan to join the other defendants. He did not enter a plea.
The judge has not yet ruled on whether to grant the defendants' bond.
The attorney for David Brian Stone, who is the alleged leader of the group, said, "I have a funny feeling the government is not going to agree to unsecure release" for the defendants.
According to prosecutors, Josh Stone, one of the eight who entered not guilty pleas and the only one who actually spoke at the hearing, posted a declaration on a militia Web site that the Hutaree was ready "to go to war." Stone alleged in the posting that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a federal government agency, wanted a "fire fight" with the group.
Stone and other members of the Christian extremist militia Hutaree was arrested earlier this week in a series of raids in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. Stone's mother, Tina Stone, father, David Stone Sr., and his brother, David Stone Jr., also entered not guilty pleas today.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald Waterstreet said that the government built its case against the Hutarees by using an undercover law enforcement officer who infiltrated the group. Waterstreet said that the agent described attending a "training day" for members of the Hutaree which was held at the residence of David Stone Sr, his wife Tina, and son, Joshua on June 13, 2009.
The prosecutor said the undercover agent the group went over various explosives demonstrations at the meeting. The group was shown an improvised explosive device and experimented with a pipe bomb during the training.
On July, 25, 2009, according to the prosecution, David Stone encouraged members to train harder because war was approaching. Stone indicated that he wanted to "own his own country." Stone referred to law enforcement as part of a New World Order "brotherhood" and he spoke about killing law enforcement officers.
The Hutaree were divided into two teams who were being trained to kill law enforcement, according to Waterstreet. The group built a "hit list" consisting of federal judges and educational leaders.
Kristopher Sickles, one of the nine defendants, allegedly wanted to explode a bomb at the police department in Huron, Ohio, and killed his cat so he could "see if he had it in him to kill something he cared about," the prosecution claims.
Waterstreet also played the courtroom an audio recording of David Stone, during which he says, "People around the world are waiting for people like Hutaree to go to war."
David Stone's lawyer William Swor said the recording demonstrated Stone has opinions.
Mark Satawa, the attorney for one of the accused, 40-year-old Michael David Meeks, said in a statement today that his client "looks forward to being vindicated."
The Stone family has been at the center of the investigation since it began.
Those who have met the family describe them as socially awkward, a trait that some say as on display at the wedding earlier this month of Josh Stone.
The bride wore white, but the groom -- and all of his family, including the tyke who was the ring bearer -- wore camouflage combat uniforms.
"I was really surprised. It just seemed so inappropriate," Donna Spurgeon, the wife of the minister who directs the church where the March 13 wedding was held, told ABCNews.com."She was a beautiful bride and had a beautiful white dress and it seemed really odd" next to the military uniforms.
Photographs were posted on a Facebook page that belongs to Karen Belcher. Belcher is a friend of the bride, Shannon Witt, and was asked to photograph the wedding. She said that most of the men at the ceremony were in full military fatigues.
Even a young ring bearer, who appears to be no more than 6 years old, was wearing the uniform.
"I knew [the Stones] were different, I just didn't know how different," said Belcher. "That was my first meeting."
Belcher said that Witt's family did not approve of the wedding, because they did not "like" the Stone family. Only Witt's mother, aunt and sister attended, according to Belcher.
"I think Shannon was pretty much brainwashed. She had no clue of what all what went on," said Belcher. "She's pretty innocent, naive. It was a shock to her like it was to the rest of us."
Belcher said the Stone family members were all very nice to her at the wedding, but that she did not have any lengthy conversations with any of them.
Spurgeon, whose husband is the pastor of theThornhill Baptist Church, said the Stones preferred that a "chaplain from their group" officiate at the wedding.
She said that about 40 people attended the wedding and reception, and that at least 15 were wearing military uniforms.
"I was surprised," said Spurgeon of the whole ordeal. "But the bride looked very happy."
Members of Hutaree Were Home Schooled
The Stone family attended the Thornhill Baptist Church "about once every three months," according to Spurgeon, but were always polite and well behaved when they did show up. Spurgeon said that her church did not condone anything the Stone's are said to believe in. "That's not the teaching that they got at our church," Spurgeon said.
Josh Stone and David Stone Jr. were both home schooled and seemed to lack friends their own age, according to Spurgeon.
"They needed to be exposed to kids their own age," she said. "But they were not wild children at all. They were very polite, very respectful and very kind."
The parents, David Stone Sr. and his wife, Tina, were always very polite, although he always seemed like he had drank too much coffee," said Spurgeon.
"David just always seemed really hyper, like, calm down," said Spurgeon.
Despite their personalities and the military garb, Spurgeon said she never suspected anything out of the ordinary. She figured that the men in the family, like many in the rural town of Clayton, Mich., just enjoyed hunting.
"I thought they were a bunch of guys who liked to go hunting together and dress in military garb," she said. "We heard them talk about getting the deer and that type of thing, but I never knew it had any military connotation or a connection to law enforcement. ... I certainly had no idea."
Robert Dudley, 80, housed Josh Stone in his beat-up camper before he was captured late Monday. Dudley told ABC News that Josh seemed "nice" and needed to place to stay because he knew he was "being looked after."
Dudley, who has known Josh Stone since he was 5 and has met the rest of the family on occasion, said the Stones are "nice people."
The fiancee of the other Stone brother, David Stone Jr., came to the family's defense, telling reporters that the Stones are harmless.
"I don't think they're dangerous," Brittany Bryant said. "They're not doing anything wrong. They're doing what they want to do.
"If they wanted to do something," she said, "they would have done it already."
David Stone Sr.'s former wife, Donna Stone, described him as a guy who has "got a temper."
"He can get radical and he wants things done his way," she said. "One way or the other, they will get done his way is the way he looks at everything."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.