When the nine members of the Hutaree militia group were arrested in late March near Adrian, Michigan, the MSM ran hard with the story. Within 48 hours, the template was set: A “right-wing extremist Christian” militia group had been planning to wreak havoc by killing law enforcement officers as a way to engage a wider war against the government.
Soon the MSM had the Hutarees tried, convicted and jailed.
Throughout most of April, the story faded from the news and left behind the public assumption that the Hutarees’ diabolical plot had been thwarted by the FBI in the nick of time.
Then, at an April 27 court hearing concerning the group’s disposition as they awaited trial, the lead FBI agent in the case against the Hutarees was called to testify before U.S. District Judge Victoria A. Roberts. That’s when, according to the Detroit News, the government’s case started showing some serious cracks;
A federal judge had harsh words for prosecutors Tuesday after an FBI agent called to testify in the Hutaree militia case told the court she learned she would take the stand only shortly before the hearing began.
Special Agent Leslie Larsen, the agent in charge of the case in which nine people are accused of plotting to kill police officers and wage war against the U.S. government, did not know the answers to many of the questions she was asked and did not have her notes with her.
“I share the frustration of the defense … with all of the responses that are coming from this witness that she doesn’t know anything,” said U.S. District Judge Victoria A. Roberts.
A few days later, the fissures in the government’s case against the Hutarees widened when, on May 3, Judge Roberts ordered the release on bond of the nine members of the Hutarees, over the objections of federal prosecutors. In her 36-page ruling, Roberts wrote:
The Government relies on the seriousness of the charges as well, to argue that Defendants must be held without bond, because they present a danger to the community. While the Government argues that the Defendants are also a flight risk, its reasons are not persuasive. Importantly, the Court’s Pretrial Services Agency concludes that the Defendants do not present such a risk. Dangerousness then, is the Court’s major concern in assessing whether Defendants should be released on bond.
While the Government contends that the crimes charged against Defendants go well beyond speech, there is no doubt that controversial, offensive and hate-filled speech is implicated. In their defense, the Defendants disagree that this case implicates anything other than speech, and, that whatever they said, did not amount to a conspiracy to commit illegal acts…
The United States is correct that it need not wait until people are killed before it arrests conspirators. But, the Defendants are also correct: their right to engage in hate-filled, venomous speech is a right that deserves First Amendment protection...
The Court reviewed all exhibits, testimony, and proffers, and finds that each Defendant produced sufficient evidence to rebut the presumption in favor of detention. The Government fails to persuade the Court, by a preponderance of the evidence, that there are no conditions that will reasonably assure the Defendants’ appearance in Court as required. The Government also fails to persuade the Court by clear and convincing evidence, that there are no conditions that will reasonably assure the safety of the community, if Defendants are released.
The release has been delayed until 5 p.m. tomorrow pending a possible government motion whether to appeal the ruling.
So, the nine members of group profiled by the Department of Justice and the MSM as representing an imminent right-wing extremist danger have been released on bond by a judge who surveyed the evidence and concluded that the government hadn’t made the case that the Hutarees represented a clear and present danger to “the safety of the community.” Instead, they appear to be most guilty of shooting off their mouths – a practice still protected, in most cases, by the First Amendment.
Here’s the question the MSM needs to ask, but won’t: Was this flamboyant raid primarily driven by political rather than law enforcement motives?
Was the arrest of the Hutaree militia Attorney General Eric Holder’s effort to manufacture an imminent right-wing extremist threat for political purposes?
US takes early lumps in case against Mich. militia
By ED WHITE (AP) – 8 hours ago
DETROIT — Federal authorities touted the arrests of nine members of a Michigan militia as a pre-emptive strike against homegrown terrorists, declaring at an initial court hearing that the suspects with "dark hearts and evil intent" wanted to go to war against the government.
Five weeks later, prosecutors are scrambling to regroup after a judge questioned the strength of their evidence by ordering the so-called rebels released until trial and saying they had a right to "engage in hate-filled, venomous speech."
"The government is falling short," said David Griem, a former federal prosecutor who's not involved in the case. "The message that's been sent to the community is there are problems with this case."
During two days of hearings last week before U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts, prosecutors tried to show how dangerous they perceived the Hutaree militia to be by playing secretly recorded conversations. Those talks, however, revealed no specific plot. Under questioning by defense attorneys, the FBI's lead agent on the case seemed unprepared.
Roberts ordered the nine released from jail under very strict conditions, including electronic tethers and curfews. They were supposed to go home Tuesday, but she froze her decision until Wednesday to give prosecutors time to consult the U.S. Justice Department about a rare appeal.
The indictment unsealed in March called Hutaree an extremist organization in southern Michigan preparing to wage war against the federal government by first mowing down police officers and bombing a subsequent funeral. Besides seditious conspiracy, the nine were charged with attempted use of weapons of mass destruction.
The militia is led by David Stone, 44, of Clayton, Mich. — "Captain Hutaree" — who was recorded saying he wanted to burn down homes of four police officers and "just start huntin'" others along the road. His attorney, William Swor, has dismissed it as "stupid, hateful talk."
The judge's task was to determine if the eight men and one woman — Stone's wife, Tina — were too dangerous to be released. Roberts found that the secret recordings of militia members by an undercover agent contained "offensive and hate-filled speech," but nothing that signaled a conspiracy to levy war against the government.
"The defendants laugh, make sounds and appear to talk over one another," Roberts said, referring to a Feb. 20 recording. "There is also a discussion of strippers."
She was not ruling on anyone's guilt or innocence. The legal threshold to keep people in jail, especially with major allegations of weapons violations, is not high, which raises questions about the broader case and why prosecutors didn't have evidence to persuade the judge.
"They weren't prepared," said John Freeman, a former federal prosecutor. "What strikes me is the appearance that the government took detention as a given based strictly on the nature of the allegations."
At last week's hearing, the FBI's lead case agent, Leslie Larsen, said she was hastily told by prosecutors that she had to testify. Defense lawyers pressed her for information about each defendant, but she said she hadn't lately looked at her reports and couldn't answer many questions.
The judge found her testimony "vague," noting the agent said militia members "may have been planning something."
A firearms agent was quickly summoned from Grand Rapids, 150 miles west, to testify about four weapons seized by investigators. But Roberts removed him from the witness stand when defense lawyers said they had no notice.
"It's fair to classify this as sandbagging," attorney Mark Satawa complained.
U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said a detention hearing is a limited stage for evidence. She expressed confidence about her office's handling of the case.
"Trial is another forum. We'll present all our evidence," McQuade said. "It's our position that they pose a danger to the community and detention is appropriate."
Freeman, the former prosecutor, said appealing the release of the militia members to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati is risky for the government.
"You don't go unless you really think the judge made a serious error and you're fairly certain you will prevail," he said. "You're elevating this thing to a much higher level."
He cautioned that while government lawyers may be taking some lumps, the nine defendants still face serious charges.
"It's a big leap to say somebody's released on bond and that means the government has a poor case. These are seasoned prosecutors," Freeman said. "Hate speech alone is probably not going to get the government where it wants to be."
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Click to view image: '44a7799e9e05-hutareemilitia.jpg'
Click to view image: 'e49c18d11e41-firstamendment300x234.gif'
Click to view image: 'c46d48f4a39a-hutaree.jpg'
|Liveleak on Facebook|