Detroit— A Hutaree member’s lawyer said today the government is close to trampling on the Constitutional rights of the militia members accused of plotting to kill police officers and spark an uprising against the U.S. government.
There was no plan and no target identified by nine Hutaree members facing federal charges, said lawyer Todd A. Shanker of the Federal Defender Office. Shanker and other lawyers representing militia members urged U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul J. Komives to schedule a pretrial hearing to weigh the admissibility of evidence, which prosecutors say would be time consuming, unnecessary and a process best held during trial.
“In this particular case, the government has its foot on the neck of the First Amendment,” Shanker said in court today, along with the freedoms of expression, association, assembly and religion. Shanker, who represents David Stone Jr., 20, the adopted son of alleged Hutaree leader David Stone Sr., said prosecutors failed to establish his client posed a clear and present danger.
In addition to the hearing, Shanker wants the government to prove a conspiracy existed and that Stone Jr. was a part of it.
Shanker said the government has a history of stifling speech, invoking cases including the radical White Panther party, headed by Detroiter John Sinclair, and the Chicago Seven — seven Vietnam War protest leaders charged with conspiring to start a riot during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
After reviewing recordings and other evidence turned over by federal prosecutors that he said failed to implicate his client, Shanker was left wondering “Where’s Waldo?”
The Stones and seven other alleged followers of the Lenawee County-based group were indicted in March. Charges include seditious conspiracy and attempted use of weapons of mass destruction.
Six of the nine defendants attended today’s hearing in U.S. District Court in Detroit, some in prison uniforms and under guard. Others, like Stone Jr., who is free on bond, sat in a courtroom gallery with supporters.
The case is not about First Amendment rights, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sheldon Light said. The case is about seditious conspiracy, using weapons of mass destruction and force to oppose the government.
Despite Shanker saying the government’s evidence was “weak,” Light said Stone Jr. attended a June 2009 training session and a demonstration on the use of explosive devices.
“There’s Waldo,” Light said.