DETROIT -- A Clayton, Mich., man and his son pleaded guilty Thursday to weapons charges in federal court, ending a six-week trial that was gutted this week when the most serious charges against them and other militia members were dismissed.
David Stone, 51, and Joshua Stone, 23, the leaders of the Hutaree militia, entered pleas in U.S. District Court to possessing illegal guns, giving federal prosecutors their only gain in a high-profile domestic terror trial that came to an abrupt end when Judge Victoria Roberts said the government had not proved they and five others had conspired in a plan to rebel against the government.
Both men pleaded guilty to possession of illegal weapons for owning guns that had been altered to fire automatically.
After pleading guilty, the Stones were released from jail after being locked up for two years. Sentencing on the felonies is set for Aug. 8.
Under sentencing guidelines, the elder Stone could receive 33 to 41 months. His son is facing 27 to 33 months, their attorneys said.
According to the Associated Press, David Stone told reporters in the courtroom he was a "stand-up true American patriot" whose anti-government comments and bravado about wanting to kill police were not a call to attack.
"It's amazing how someone can take a comment out of context and make it to whatever they want it to be," Stone said.
The pair and five others who were arrested two years ago during a raid of David Stone's home near Clayton were cleared Tuesday of conspiring in a plot to overthrow the government and possessing weapons of mass destruction.
Prosecutors claimed Mr. Stone, his wife, Tina Stone, and his sons, Joshua and David Stone, Jr., of Adrian; Thomas Piatek of Whiting, Ind., Michael Meeks of Manchester, Mich., Kristopher Sickles of Sandusky, Ohio, and Jacob Ward of Huron had engaged in a plot against the government, and the plan would begin by killing a police officer and then bombing the funeral cortege.
In deciding the defense attorneys' motion to dismiss, Judge Roberts said the government's case was built largely on circumstantial evidence and prosecutors had not proved beyond a reasonable doubt the defendants reached a concrete agreement to forcibly oppose the government.
Tina Stone told the Associated Press her husband's Hutaree days are over, although she said the group was never the violent threat that the government had claimed.
"They couldn't overthrow F-Troop," she said, referring to a 1960s TV satire about soldiers in the Old West after the Civil War.
In her first comments since Tuesday's acquittal, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said in a statement she was disappointed with Judge Robert's dismissal of the most serious charges but vowed to investigate similar activity.
Attorney James Thomas said he will ask the judge to give his client, Joshua Stone, credit for the two years spent in jail awaiting trial and set him free.
Joshua Clough, formerly of Blissfield, was the only Hutaree member convicted since the arrest of nine people in March, 2010. He pleaded guilty in December to a firearms charge and admitted the militia's goal was to use bombs against local, state, and federal authorities. He faces at least five years in prison.