In a major blow to the federal case against members of the extremist Hutaree militia, a federal judge has thrown out conspiracy charges against all of the members, leaving five members of the group off the hook completely.
Two defendants — accused ringleader David Stone Sr. and his son Joshua Stone, are still facing weapons charges, the Detroit Free Press reports. Nine members had originally been charged in a conspiracy to attack police and start a battle with federal authorities.
U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts wrote in a 28-page ruling (embedded below) that the evidence against members of the Michigan-based group may provide “circumstantial proof that some of the Defendants planned to do something unlawful” but said the indictment “sets forth a specific plot to draw law enforcement to Michigan from around the country by killing a member of local law enforcement” that the government couldn’t prove.
Roberts wrote that the government’s strongest case was against David Stone, Sr. but that “even the evidence against Stone is not enough to sustain the seditious conspiracy charge.”
Stones’ statements and exercises, Roberts wrote, “do not evince a concrete agreement to forcibly resist the authority of the United States Government. His diatribes evince nothing more than his own hatred for — perhaps even desire to fight or kill — law enforcement; this is not thesame as seditious conspiracy.”
Roberts was even more harsh on the case against other members, calling the evidence against Joshua Stone “woefully lacking” and the evidence against Tina Stone “minuscule.”
“It is telling that in an investigation that spanned nearly two years, there were only two brief instances in which the alleged plan to kill a member of local law enforcement and attack the ensuing funeral procession was mentioned. Furthermore, the evidence of the necessary next step — a retreat to rally points from where the larger uprising would occur — is wholly lacking,” Roberts wrote.
“The Government’s case is built largely of circumstantial evidence,” Roberts wrote. “While this evidence could certainly lead a rational fact finder to conclude that ‘something fishy’ was going on, it does not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendants reached a concrete agreement to forcibly oppose the United States Government.”
Federal prosecutors rested their case before the jury just a few days ago, according to the Free Press.