DETROIT (AP) — The leader of a southern Michigan militia once accused of plotting a violent rebellion against the government was given no additional time behind bars Wednesday for possessing illegal weapons after serving two years in jail awaiting trial.
Federal prosecutors wanted David Stone to spend at least nine more months in custody. But a defense attorney said even that punishment would be cut short with good behavior and instead disrupt Stone's attempt to rebuild his life.
"I just ask for your mercy," Stone told U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts.
The judge agreed, saying prison "would not make much sense."
In March, Roberts acquitted Stone and seven Hutaree militia members of conspiring to rebel against the government with a violent uprising that would target law enforcement. The judge found no evidence of a specific plan. It was an embarrassing defeat for the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office in Detroit after months of investigation that involved secretly recorded video and audio, a paid informant and an undercover agent.
Once the more serious charge was thrown out, Stone pleaded guilty to possession of a machine gun. He also admitted having an illegal short-barrel rifle.
Roberts noted that the FBI recorded Stone making "reprehensible" remarks about killing police officers and their families. But she said her job was to sentence him for the gun crime and nothing else.
Defense attorney William Swor said Stone, 48, has struggled to bounce back after two years in jail and the trial. Stone has a job that pays just above the minimum wage, and he and his wife live with her parents in Hillsdale County.
"How many times does the government want Mr. Stone to start all over again?" Swor asked, referring to the prison time prosecutors were seeking.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sheldon Light objected to Stone getting credit for accepting responsibility for his crime, a key issue when scoring the sentencing guidelines.
Separately, the judge also sentenced Stone's son, Joshua Stone, and Joshua Clough to time served for possessing illegal guns. Two militia members who were acquitted at trial, Michael Meeks and Thomas Piatek, were in the courtroom gallery.
"It would be like reading a book and not reading the last chapter," Meeks said of his decision to watch. "Judge Roberts was very fair."