Opening arguments commenced this week in the trial of the seven members of the Hutaree Militia in Michigan, who are accused of plotting to kill police officers, but who defense attorneys argue were more of a “social club” than a serious threat.
The trial, which will likely last 6-8 weeks, kicked off Monday in Detroit with statements from Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Graveline, who is prosecuting the case, and three defense attorneys. On Tuesday, defense attorneys for other members of the militia will make opening statements as well.
The seven alleged militia members are accused of plotting to kill police officers, with one filing by the prosecution describing how they allegedly discussed “ambushing police officers, killing police officers during traffic stops, torching the homes of police officers and then shooting them and their families as they fled their burning homes.”
“These individuals, led by David Stone Sr., wanted an armed confrontation with law enforcement and the federal government,” Graveline said. “They wanted to start the war… patriots rising up against the government.”
David Ashenfelter of the Detroit Free Press, who attended the proceedings, reports that Graveline described how the members of the militia stockpiled firearms, ammunition and explosives, as well as bulletproof vests, suits used to disguise snipers and bomb-making instructions, and partook in military-style training. The evidence displayed by the prosecution included 20 weapons allegedly seized from the Hutaree, and 148,000 ammunition rounds.
“They were ready, willing and able to go to war,” Graveline said. “They practiced military-style exercises at David Stone Sr.’s home and other locations.”
William Swor, who is representing David Stone Sr., told the jury that “the fact of the matter is there is no ‘they,’ there is no ‘them.’”
“There was no plan and there was very little action,” he added, referencing how Stone believed that the apocalypse was coming. “David Stone did not pretend to know when this would happen,” Swor said. “So, David Stone began to prepare… He looked around for other people who were also looking to prepare. He talked to militia groups, he listened to militia groups and what he learned from them is that he didn’t want to belong to their groups for various reasons.”
Deputy Federal Defender Todd Shanker, who is representing David Stone, Jr. along with Deputy Federal Defender Richard Helfrick, told the jury that “these are not dark-hearted individuals. Raise your voices at the end of this case and find David Stone Jr. not guilty.”
“Calling this group a militia is pushing it,” Shanker said, the Detroit News reports. “It’s really a social club.”
Of the nine alleged members of the militia initially arrested in 2010, one, Joshua Clough, also known as “Azzurlin,” “Az” and “Mouse,” reached a plea agreement in December. Another was declared unfit to stand trial.