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Published: Saturday, 5/15/2010

Militia attorneys ask high court to step in


DETROIT - Defense lawyers asked a U.S. Supreme Court justice yesterday to intervene and free nine jailed members of a Lenawee County militia unit, saying an appeals court used the wrong legal standard to keep them in custody.

The long-shot petition was filed with Justice John Paul Stevens, who has some authority over federal cases in the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. The 6th Circuit includes Michigan.

An immediate response was not expected.

A message seeking comment was left with U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade.

The defendants, all members of a group called Hutaree, are charged with conspiracy to commit sedition, or rebellion, against the government and attempted use of weapons of mass destruction.

Prosecutors said militia members talked about killing police officers and attacking police who attended the funeral, though no specific plot or targets have been disclosed.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts in Detroit ordered their release until trial under strict conditions, including electronic monitors. But a three-judge panel on the appellate bench issued a stay May 6, then extended it Monday until another three-judge panel could hear a full appeal.

The U.S. attorney's office said the nine are too dangerous to be released.

In their nine-page filing at the Supreme Court, defense lawyers Richard Helfrick and Todd Shanker said the appeals court did not give enough deference to Judge Roberts' work.

The three-judge panel also relied on issues that never were raised by prosecutors in Judge Roberts' courtroom, the filing said.

Mr. Helfrick and Mr. Shanker represent David Stone Jr., one of six defendants from Michigan.

Two others are from Ohio and one is from Indiana.

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