Plea hearing scrubbed for Hutaree militiaman

November 2, 2011 12:22:31 PM PDT
On the federal court docket ''SCHEDULED IN ERROR'' isn't a normal entry, especially when it refers to an appearance by a defendant in a major criminal case who is said to be entering a guilty plea.

Wednesday afternoon in Detroit, just before a scheduled plea hearing for accused Hutaree militiaman Joshua Clough, the U.S. District Court's official electronic docket posted a surprising change of plans. "Cancelled - SCHEDULED IN ERROR as to Joshua John Clough" it read.

Mr. Clough was one of nine people charged with being members of a violent militia group aimed at overthrowing the United States. The originally scheduled hearing at which Clough was thought to be entering a guilty plea was set for 3 p.m.

It is not clear how the court originally set such a hearing "in error." Clough's attorney and the assistant U.S. attorney did not immediately respond to questions about the gaffe.

The high-profile domestic terrorism case includes charges against Thomas Piatek, of Whiting, Indiana, who is scheduled to stand trial with most of the others Feb. 7. Piatek was arrested in west suburban Clarendon Hills last year after authorities say he and the Hutaree militia group planned to kill police officers, a bloody rampage intended to spark an overthrow of the federal government, according to prosecutors.

U.S. agents found guns and ammunition in Piatek's northwest Indiana garage and say that he was an active participant in the sedition plot. Piatek has been held in Michigan on the charges that include the planned use of weapons of mass destruction to carry out the attack.

In addition to Piatek and Clough, Hutaree leader David Stone and his son Joshua have been charged in the case. Nine Hutaree members were arrested following the federal investigation in the spring of 2010 that culminated with raids in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. Authorities said that they had been training and preparing for a war on the federal government. Video of Hutaree training exercises showed participants, including Piatek, in military-style uniforms, some armed with heavy weapons, in the woods conducting battle exercises.

One of the defendants has been found to be mentally unsuited for trial and was ordered to undergo treatment. Piatek and the remaining defendants have entered not guilty pleas.


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