DETROIT (Reuters) - A U.S. federal judge on Friday ordered eight members of an extremist militia group held in custody until they could be tried on accusations of plotting to kill police officers and wage a war on the U.S. government.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald Scheer said each defendant posed a flight risk and “would constitute an unacceptable risk of danger to the community at large, and to the law enforcement community in particular” if released on bail.
An indictment unsealed on Monday accused the defendants, members of a Midwestern militia group called the Hutaree, of planning to kill a police officer in Michigan and then ambush the funeral procession using improvised explosives.
In his detention orders, Scheer wrote that the seven men and one woman had significant motivation to avoid the potential jail sentences in the case and noted that authorities said they had planned and trained for “protracted resistance to federal authority.”
“In addition, they have hidden caches of supplies intended for their use in evading capture,” Scheer wrote.
Each defendant was charged with a firearms offense that carries a mandatory five-year minimum prison sentence, and with attempted use of weapons of mass destruction, which carries a potential life sentence, Scheer wrote.
Defense lawyers had asserted that their clients should be granted bail, arguing that possessing weapons and voicing opposition to the government was not illegal.
Authorities said, however, that the group had hoped the attacks would spark a wider uprising against the government and the defendants were preparing to fight from fortified and booby-trapped positions after the initial strikes.
Raids on the suspects’ homes last weekend uncovered dozens of handguns and rifles along with ammunition, explosives and bomb components, authorities said.
Scheer ordered Michigan residents David Brian Stone, David Brian Stone Jr., Joshua Matthew Stone, Tina Mae Stone, Joshua John Clough and Michael David Meeks as well as Ohio residents Kristopher T. Sickles and Jacob J. Ward held to trial.
A ninth defendant, Thomas William Piatek, was arraigned and pleaded not guilty in Indiana on Wednesday. A judge ordered him held without bail and transferred to Michigan.
The group’s website says the term Hutaree means “Christian warrior” and says the group was “preparing for the end time battles to keep the testimony of Jesus Christ alive.” However, prosecutors downplayed the religious element of the group.
The federal grand jury indictment charged the defendants with seditious conspiracy, attempted use of weapons of mass destruction, and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence.
Reporting by David Bailey; editing by Paul Simao
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.