Pro-arms militia set for federal trial on Monday

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 13, 2012 11:43 AM
Pro-arms militia set for federal trial on Monday

By Meghana Keshavan

DETROIT (Reuters) - Prosecutors were expected to outline their case on Monday to jurors in the federal trial of seven members of a Midwestern militia group accused of plotting to kill police to spark a wider war against the U.S. government.

Calling themselves the Hutaree and opposing government regulation of firearms and explosives, the defendants are accused of conspiring to kill a police officer and then ambush a funeral procession motorcade using homemade explosive devices.

The selection of 12 jurors and four alternate jurors was expected to be completed Monday, followed by opening statements in the trial before U.S. District Court Judge Victoria Roberts in Detroit.

The jury is to remain anonymous to the defendants and public, an unusual measure to protect their safety.

Defense attorneys have argued the group was merely engaging in angry expressions of free speech in conversations that were secretly recorded and did not demonstrate real intent to carry out acts of domestic terrorism.

No attacks were carried out.

Prosecutors contend the group had met regularly since 2008 to conduct military style training and were preparing for an upcoming attack when authorities executed search warrants and swept them up in raids in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.

Federal agents seized machine guns, unregistered short-barrel guns, ammunition, explosive devices and materials that could be used to make explosives, according to court documents.

Under a federal indictment unsealed in March 2010, the charges against all seven include sedition, the attempted use of weapons of mass destruction and firearms offenses. Nine members of the group were indicted, one pleaded guilty and trial has been delayed for another suspect.

On trial are accused group leader David Brian Stone Sr.; his wife, Tina Mae Stone; and their two sons, David Brian Stone Jr. and Joshua Matthew Stone. Michael David Meeks, Thomas William Piatek and Kristopher Sickles also face trial.

The trial was expected to last six to eight weeks.

(Writing by David Bailey; Editing by Daniel Trotta)