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Published: Friday, 4/2/2010

FBI used fake memorial event to lure Hutaree militia


DETROIT - Members of a Midwest Christian militia accused of conspiring to overthrow the government were arrested after the FBI lured them to a warehouse to attend a phony memorial service, where they would be unarmed, Michigan's chief federal agent said yesterday.

The ruse Saturday in Ann Arbor was part of a series of weekend raids in several states that resulted in the indictment of nine people in the alleged plot, officials said.

"We basically set up a scenario where we were able to draw them all to one location," Andrew Arena, head of the FBI in Detroit, told the Associated Press. "And the reason we did that was to obviously get them away from their weapons."

Nine suspected members of a group called Hutaree were charged this week with seditious conspiracy, or plotting to levy war against the United States, attempting to use weapons of mass destruction, and other crimes.

Prosecutors say they planned to make a false 911 call, kill responding police officers, and set off a bomb at the funeral to kill many more. The FBI said it broke up the plot with the help of an undercover agent.

Also yesterday, a federal judge said he needed more time to decide whether eight of the nine people in custody in the Detroit area will remain locked up until trial. The ninth defendant is in custody in Indiana. A decision is expected today.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald Scheer heard a second day of arguments and denied a request by defense attorneys to force FBI agents to testify. He said prosecutors could make their case for pretrial custody without calling witnesses.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Falvey, Jr., said there was nothing wrong with owning guns or hating the government. But it's illegal, he argued, when "people with dark hearts and evil intents" gather to discuss ways to commit violence. Releasing the defendants would let them regroup, Mr. Falvey said.

Defense lawyers told the judge that no evidence against the group has been aired outside the indictment.

"If this group was so dangerous … then where were the witnesses?" attorney Lisa Kirsch Satawa said.

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