Federal prosecutors trying to keep nine militia members in jail said Thursday that they don't need to show there was imminent danger when they charged them with plotting war against the government
In a court filing, prosecutors responded to a judge's concern that they haven't revealed a specific strategy against the U.S. by nine members of the Michigan-based Hutaree militia.
The suspects are charged with conspiracy to commit sedition, or rebellion against the government, and weapons violations. Defense lawyers spent two days trying to persuade U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts that their clients should be released from jail until trial.
A decision could come this week.
‘Imminent lawless action’
Roberts challenged prosecutors on Wednesday to show how the group was launching an "imminent lawless action," a key condition under a 1969 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on seditious conspiracy.
Prosecutors, however, said the judge instead should refer to the case of Omar Abdel-Rahman, a blind sheik who was convicted in 1995 of urging followers to commit violence against U.S. landmarks in New York and New Jersey.
A federal appeals court found that Abdel-Rahman was encouraging others to take a violent path and was not protected by the First Amendment, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald Waterstreet said.
In the Hutaree case, "the prosecution of the defendants for conspiracy is appropriate in order to prevent the conspiracy from ripening into actual violent actions," Waterstreet said in a filing Thursday.
Prosecutors say the militia plotted to kill police officers as a first step toward broader violence. Defense lawyers say it's just a case of irrational speech, not sedition.
William Swor, the lawyer for Hutaree leader David Stone of Clayton, Mich., and other attorneys urged Roberts to disregard the government's latest filing, noting the judge did not invite additional arguments when she closed the detention hearing Wednesday.
‘We can go burn their houses down’
Meanwhile, Roberts on Thursday released an audio CD that was played in court Tuesday, along with a transcript. The conversations were secretly recorded Feb. 20 by an undercover agent who had infiltrated Hutaree.
Prosecutors played it as evidence that Stone and his allies were intent on killing police officers.
"I think we gotta just start huntin' 'em here pretty soon. ... They're easy to find, they're sittin' alongside the road and they got these red and blue lights on top of their car," Stone tells five others and the undercover agent.
Michael Meeks, 40, of Manchester, Mich., replied: "It's like a Kmart super special or whatever."
At another point, Stone says he knows where four officers live and "we can go burn their house down." Laughter follows.
At times, they imitate the noise of guns and talk about poison, strippers, Chinese troops and United Nations forces — people in "magical blue helmets." But they don't refer to specific people they might be targeting.