Eight not-guilty pleas in Christian militia case

Times Wire Services

Not-guilty pleas were entered here Wednesday on behalf of eight of nine members of a Christian militia that prosecutors say plotted to kill police officers and kick-start a violent revolution.

The eight, including alleged ringleader David Brian Stone, 45, were among nine members of the Hutaree militia arrested after a series of raids in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio over the weekend. They face charges including seditious conspiracy and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

An undercover FBI agent and a cooperating witness were part of the inquiry, a court document said.

At a hearing for the ninth man in Indiana, prosecutors said 46 guns, military survival equipment and thousands of rounds of ammunition had been seized at the home of Thomas Piatek, 46.

A federal prosecutor outlined details of the Hutaree’s training and inner workings during the detention hearing in U.S. District Court in Hammond, where a magistrate denied bond and ordered Piatek sent to Detroit for arraignment.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Dean Lanter told the court that Piatek was part of the “inner circle” of Hutaree and had participated in three training sessions for firearms and bomb-making in Michigan. He was identified in a picture of Hutaree members wearing camouflage and holding guns, Lanter said.

Piatek also was invited to attend a trip to Kentucky for a “militia summit” in February, Lanter said. The trip was cut short because of a snowstorm, but federal officials played an audiotape of conversations in the van during the trip, which included Stone professing his hatred of law enforcement.

Federal officials described the Hutaree as a group based in Lenawee County, Mich., that planned to fake a 911 call and kill the responding officer. Members of the group then planned to attack other officers at his funeral with improvised explosive devices, officials said.

But Piatek’s friends and family, including his older brother, Stan, testified that he would never participate in violent acts against the government. They said he was a good-natured man and the primary caregiver for his schizophrenic brother.

Friends said guns were his lifelong hobby.

Lanter noted that the guns were all legally obtained, but said that the volume, type and other evidence pointed to a nefarious intention.

“This is not a collector,” he said. “Nothing about that makes sense as a hobby. He is a danger to society.”

Friends and family said that Piatek never expressed extreme anti-government views and that he often talked about his activities in Michigan, describing them as “playing army.”

“I knew he went up there and played army, but I didn’t know anything about the overthrowing of government,” said a childhood friend, James Duha.

Piatek’s attorney said his client is not guilty.

“Just because he hangs out with those guys doesn’t mean he agrees with all of their views,” Jerry Flynn said.