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Published: Tuesday, 5/11/2010

U.S. appeals court rejects order to release Hutaree


CINCINNATI - The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati yesterday failed to uphold a lower court ruling releasing from custody nine members of the Lenawee County-based militia group accused of plotting to overthrow the government.

The temporary order reverses the bond release granted by Judge Victoria Roberts of U.S. District Court in Detroit in the case involving David Stone, 45, the suspected leader of the Hutaree militia, and eight other members of the group.

U.S. attorneys last week asked the appellate court to intervene in the case after Judge Roberts said she would release the defendants from jail on more than two dozen bond restrictions. A three-judge panel on the court issued an emergency stay on release.

The latest decision from the appellate court was viewed as a setback by attorneys for some of the defendants, all of whom have been in Detroit-area jails without bond since late March.

"I am very disappointed. But we will keep working at it," said defense attorney Todd Shanker, who represents David Stone, Jr.. 19, son of David Stone.

The militia members are charged with conspiracy to commit sedition - or rebellion - against the government and attempting to use weapons of mass destruction.

Prosecutors contend they planned to start a war and overthrow the government by plotting to kill a police officer and then bombing the ensuing funeral that would be attended by even more law enforcement officers.

Also facing charges are Tina Stone, 44, who is the wife of David Stone, Joshua Matthew, the 21-year-old son of Mr. Stone, all of Clayton, Mich.; Joshua Clough, 28, of Blissfield, Michael Meeks, 40, of Manchester, Mich.; Thomas Piatek, 46, of Whiting, Ind., Kristopher Sickles, 27, of Sandusky, and Jacob Ward, 33, of Huron, Ohio.

In staying its previous order, the appellate panel said the defendants should be detained until it can thoroughly review the evidence and testimony given at hearings in district court.

"We conclude, in the exercise of our discretion, that a continued stay of the order revoking defendant's orders is warranted, pending review of the merits of the appeal," the panel said.

However, the seven-page appellate order failed to address four factors that Judge Roberts said she used in determining whether to keep the Hutaree members locked up.

Hearing the detention issue are Circuit Judges Alan Norris, David McKeague, and Helene White.

Among the concerns raised by the panel was the government's challenge to certain factual findings made by Judge Roberts in her 36-page decision.

The court said that the transcript of the proceedings needed to be filed in order to review those issues.

Mr. Piatek's attorney, Art Weiss, said he would not comment on the panel's ruling, but said he and the other attorneys planned to continue efforts to argue for their clients' release.

The appellate judges "have indicated there are some parameters and requirements we need to do to proceed," Mr. Weiss said. "We will have to see what in their infinite wisdom they want us to do."

- Mark Reiter

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