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Published: Wednesday, 5/5/2010

9 militia members' release put on hold


DETROIT - Prosecutors yesterday won a delay in the release of nine southeast Michigan militia members who had been ordered freed from jail to await trial on a charge of trying to wage war against the government.

U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts gave prosecutors until 5 p.m. today to declare whether they will appeal a ruling that frees the nine. At that point, the judge will decide whether to further delay their release.

The nine members of the Lenawee County-based Hutaree group were charged in March with conspiracy to commit sedition, or rebellion, against the government and attempted use of weapons of mass destruction.

Prosecutors say the defendants are too dangerous to be free until trial. The judge disagreed Monday and set several strict conditions for their release, including electronic monitoring. The nine were to have been released yesterday, but Judge Roberts froze the ruling.

Prosecutors said they needed time to consult with the U.S. Justice Department about a possible appeal to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court. The judge wants prosecutors to explain why they think they'll succeed.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald Waterstreet asked the judge to delay the Hutaree members' release in part because authorities believe they had planned to attack a police officer's funeral.

He cited the fatal shooting Monday of a Detroit police officer in a drug house. The death had no connection to Hutaree, but investigators reminded the court that militia members discussed bombing a police funeral to strike at law enforcement. Defense attorney William Swor, who represents militia leader David Stone, described that argument as outrageous.

The judge was not ruling this week on any of the militia members' guilt or innocence.

The legal threshold to keep people in jail, especially with major allegations of weapons violations, is not high, which raises questions about the broader case and why prosecutors didn't have evidence to convince the judge.

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