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Militia Members On Trial For Sedition Claim They Were A Social Group

Federal authorities released an undated photo of Hutaree members;identifications were added by the federal authorities. Joshua Clough and Jacob Ward, noted in the top row, are not on trial. i i

hide captionFederal authorities released an undated photo of Hutaree members;identifications were added by the federal authorities. Joshua Clough and Jacob Ward, noted in the top row, are not on trial.

United States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division/AP
Federal authorities released an undated photo of Hutaree members;identifications were added by the federal authorities. Joshua Clough and Jacob Ward, noted in the top row, are not on trial.

Federal authorities released an undated photo of Hutaree members;identifications were added by the federal authorities. Joshua Clough and Jacob Ward, noted in the top row, are not on trial.

United States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division/AP

Defense attorneys for several members of a Michigan militia group on trial for sedition say prosecutors are blowing the allegations out of proportion. Members of the Hutaree militia were arrested nearly two years ago by federal agents and charged with conspiring to overthrow the federal government. They allegedly intended to begin their uprising by murdering a police officer, and then attacking people who attended the officer's funeral. No plan was ever carried out and no one was hurt.

The trial for seven Hutaree members opened Monday in Detroit; an attorney for the militia's leader, David Stone, Sr. told jurors the group was mostly a "social club", according to the New York Times (paywall).

Still, federal authorities were concerned about the militia and put an undercover officer inside the Hutaree who was to work with members on building bombs. As NPR's Dina Temple-Raston reported, the group allegedly wanted to learn how to build improvised explosive devices to attack a police officer's funeral, should members ever have the chance.

That chance never materialized, according to defense attorney William Swor, because militia members had no target and no such plan, notes the Detroit Free Press: "You will have to decide whether this is a real conspiracy or David Stone exercising his God-given right to blow off steam and open his mouth....These are ordinary people living ordinary lives. Doing this stuff was merely their form of recreation."

The government certainly doesn't see it like that: the indictment charges militia members with sedition and attempted use of weapons of mass destruction (the bombs). In his opening statement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Graveline said Hutaree members wanted to trigger a war against the U.S. government, notes the Detroit News.

And the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Eastern District of Michigan notes Hutaree members were arrested in March, 2010 because they allegedly were planning a "covert reconnaissance operation" for April and their actions posed potential danger to the public.

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