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Published: Friday, 5/7/2010

Appeals court asked to free 9 in Michigan militia

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

DETROIT - Defense attorneys yesterday filed arguments asking the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals to lift the emergency order that is keeping nine members of the Lenawee County-based Hutaree militia group in jail.

In paperwork filed with the appellate court, the lawyers argued that U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts thoroughly and accurately reviewed evidence against the Christian militia group.

Judge Roberts had cleared the way Wednesday for the nine to be released from jail and also had denied an appeal from the U.S. Attorneys office for a stay later that night.

But the government appealed early yesterday to the Cincinnati-based appellate court for an emergency stay to keep the nine defendants in jail. The court granted the stay shortly before noon and gave the lawyers until 5 p.m. to respond.

"We spent a lot of time and a lot of effort putting together a brief that satisfied the court's time requirement. We did the best job we could in a relatively short amount of time," said attorney Art Weiss, who represents Thomas Piatek, a defendant in the case.

He and the other defendants, including David Stone, 45, of Clayton, Mich., who is suspected to be the Hutaree leader, are accused of conspiracy, attempting a violent overthrow of the government, and attempting to use weapons of mass destruction.

"The government filed their motions and we have responded with our motions. That is our jobs. Now the judges will do their jobs," said attorney William Swor, who represents Mr. Stone.

Also charged are Mr. Stone's wife, Tina Stone, 44; his son Joshua M. Stone, 21, both of Clayton, and his son David B. Stone, 19, of Adrian; Joshua Clough 28, of Blissfield; Michael Meeks, 40, of Manchester, Mich., Mr. Piatek, 46, of Whiting, Ind.; Kristopher Sickles, 27, of Sandusky, and Jacob Ward, 33, of Huron, Ohio.

The defendants, who face possible life sentences on the weapons charges, have been housed in county jails in the Detroit area since their arrests in late March.

In the paperwork, defense attorneys said the government failed to satisfy Judge Roberts' criteria to stay the bond conditions she ordered on Monday.

In a 36-page ruling, she freed the defendants, imposing more than two dozen bond conditions, including house arrest on electronic tethers and other restrictions to assure their appearance in court and protect the community from potential harm.

"Judge Roberts should not be overturned considering the depth and detail of her opinion and her cogent analysis of the strength of the government's case," the lawyers said in a 10-page filing.

Todd Shankar, an attorney for David Stone, said federal prosecutors failed to introduce any prior case law in which the bond release of a defendant in district court was overturned by the appellate court.

"In going over the government's motion it is very weak. I think it is unlikely that the court will continue the emergency stay," Mr. Shankar said.

Eugene Meeks, father of Michael Meeks, said he wasn't surprised by the stay but still hoped his son would be released soon.

"It doesn't give us a good Mother's Day present," the elder Meeks said of yesterday's ruling. "We're just waiting for a conclusion, that's all."

The suspect's father said he doesn't think his son is guilty.

"I don't believe it," he said. "I haven't seen the proof yet."

Under the release terms that were halted yesterday, Michael Meeks is required to live with his father and mother Sylvia Meeks, in Manchester, Mich.

Reached by phone at his North Adams home, Tina Stone's father, Tim Kelley, declined comment.

In arguments to lift the emergency stay on the bonds, defense attorneys said the undercover FBI agent who infiltrated the militia group couldn't differentiate the conduct and activities of the nine indicted Hutaree members from the more than 25 other members who were not charged.

Staff writer Claudia Boyd-Barrett contributed to this report.

Contact Mark Reiter at:

markreiter@theblade.com

or 419-724-6199.



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