DETROIT (Reuters) - A ninth member of a Christian militia group accused of conspiring to kill law enforcement officers to trigger a wider war against the U.S. government appeared before a federal judge on Tuesday.
Joshua Matthew Stone, 21, the son of the group’s leader, 45-year-old David Brian Stone, surrendered on Monday night after evading authorities over the weekend as they conducted raids across four midwestern states to round up the group.
Seven other members of the group, called the Hutaree, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald Scheer in the U.S. District Court in Detroit on Monday. An eighth suspect, who was arrested in Illinois, was arraigned separately in Indiana.
The government has asked that all nine defendants be held without bail. A detention hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.
A federal grand jury indictment unsealed this week charged the group with seditious conspiracy, attempted use of weapons of mass destruction and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence.
The eight men and one woman were accused of plotting to kill a police officer in Michigan and then ambush the law enforcement officers who attended his funeral with improvised explosive devices to be delivered with projectiles. They planned to fall back and fight from fortified and booby-trapped positions, the indictment said.
The indictment said the group believed the attacks would “serve as a catalyst for a more widespread uprising” against the government.
The group's website, hutaree.com, says the term Hutaree means "Christian warrior" and characterizes the group as "preparing for the end time battles to keep the testimony of Jesus Christ alive."
Michael Lindsay, a political sociologist at Rice University in Houston and a leading expert on U.S. evangelicalism, said the Hutaree’s outward Christian trappings should not obscure its core purpose.
“This movement is far more political than it is theological,” he told Reuters.
“The apocalyptic tenor of the movement is in many ways window dressing ... the things that anger them and mobilize them are almost entirely political.”
Lindsay called the group “very fringe” and said they would “never find support from a mainstream pastor or prominent public individual.”
Earlier this month, a report warned that the number of right-wing groups that see the U.S. government as their enemy more than doubled in the last year, fanned by anger over the economy and a backlash against the policies of President Barack Obama.
The report by the Southern Poverty Law Center said 512 such anti-government groups were active in the United States last year, a leap from 149 in 2008.
The report, “Rage on the Right” (www.splcenter.org), found that militias, or paramilitary groups within the movement, accounted for a large part of the increase, rising to 127 in 2009 from 42 a year earlier.
Under U.S. sentencing guidelines, all nine defendants face the possibility of life in prison on the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction charge alone.
The charge of seditious conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and possession of a firearm during a crime of violence carries a mandatory minimum penalty of at least five years in prison.
Additional reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Andrew Stern and Cynthia Osterman