updated 5/8/2004 3:20:21 PM ET 2004-05-08T19:20:21

Three men who allegedly belong to a militia group that authorities say was plotting to kill Montana public officials have pleaded innocent to federal firearms charges.

Steven N. Morey, 44, James Riley Day, 60, and John W. Slatter, 53, appeared in court Friday and were ordered held pending detention hearings Wednesday.

Federal authorities say the men, all of the Kalispell area, are suspected of belonging to a militia group called “Project 7,” which refers to Flathead County license plate numbers that begin with the numeral seven.

In 2002, authorities said they had uncovered evidence of a plot by Project 7 to kill Flathead Valley public officials and law enforcement officers. No one has been charged with plotting murder.

Authorities said Project 7 had amassed a huge arsenal — machine guns, 30,000 rounds of ammunition, explosives, night-vision equipment and body armor.

The men, all of the Kalispell area, were indicted Thursday on charges of conspiracy to possess illegal firearms. Morey also is charged with eight counts of possessing machine guns, some with the serial numbers removed. Day faces one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and one count of possession of a machine gun.

Also indicted in the alleged firearms conspiracy were David Burgert, 50, Tracy Brockway, 34, and Larry Chezem, 53. Burgert is serving a seven-year federal sentence for firearms convictions. Brockway and Chezem, a one-time candidate for Flathead County sheriff, had not been arrested.

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