Militia members charged in cop-killing plot

March 29, 2010 8:54:40 PM PDT
Nine people allegedly tied to a Christian militia are accused of plotting to wage war against U.S. law enforcement. One of the suspects is from northwest Indiana.The FBI carried out a series of raids in three Midwestern states-- Indiana, Michigan and Ohio-- over the weekend. The target was allegedly a Christian militia based in Michigan.

One of those suspects-- 46-year-old Thomas Piatek of Whiting, Ind., -- was in federal court Monday in Hammond, Ind. Federal officials say the plan was for the terrorist group to attack several law enforcement officials and kill one of them. The group planned to use "weapons of mass destruction" to attack the funeral of the officer they planned to kill and then retreat to prepared fighting positions fortified with improvised explosive devices, according to the federal indictment unsealed Monday.

Nine members of the militia, including Piatek, have been charged in the terror plot. The charges include conspiracy, attempted use of weapons of mass destruction, teaching the use of explosive materials, and two counts of possessing a firearm during a crime of violence. The last of the suspects, Joshua Stone, was captured Monday night.

Police surrounded Stone at a home in Wheatland Township, Michigan, He is the son of David Stone, Senior, the accused leader of the militia group. Stone's other son, David, Junior, was one of the eight arrested over the weekend, along with his wife, Tina, the only woman in the group.

Piatek faces three charges and could face anywhere from five years to life in prison. During the initial hearing Monday morning he said, "I don't understand this. What is alleged against me and what I've done are two different things."

The federal government said all of the suspects were part of a group called the Hutaree, based in Michigan. It's described as an anti-government extremist organization that planned on acting out or attacking law enforcement officials.

In a training video posted on the group's Web site, members describe themselves as "Christian warriors" saying that "Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment."

Piatek's home was raided Saturday. Officials allegeldy found boxes of guns. He was arrested Sunday morning in west suburban Clarendon Hills, Ill.

The ABC7 I-Team found a truck with Indiana plates at the complex Monday afternoon. The name Hutaree was on the back window like a college sticker. Camouflage and a knife case were on the front seat, what appeared to be survivalist gear was in the back as well as a suitcase with the name Tom Piatek on it and his home address.

Neighbors who saw the police response thought nothing of it, until now.

"I didn't notice anything like that going on here?Real surprising," said Craig Isacson, neighbor.

In court Monday, Piatek wore a blue polo shirt and had his legs shackled. He appeared confused during the hearing. The judge asked him several times if he wanted an attorney to be representing him or if he wanted a public defender. He first said he did not want a public defender, then he said he did want one.

Outside court in Detroit, David Stone, Sr.'s ex-wife talked to reporters about her ex-husband.

"He's got a temper. He can get radical, he wants things done his way. One way or the other they will get done his way," said Donna Stone, ex-wife of David Stone, Sr. "I think it's wrong, I mean I understand David did this, David Sr. has a right to be punished for what he did but he dragged my son into this and it's just wrong."

In the training videos, members of the militia burn the flag of the United Nations and replace it with their own. They also appear to be heavily armed and practicing their militia maneuvers in full camouflage.

Piatek's next hearing is scheduled for Wednesday in Hammond, where they will try to confirm his identity and try to make sure he is the same man charged with all of the counts.

U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said agents moved on the group because the Hutaree members were planning the mission sometime in April -- just a few days away.

Andrew Arena, head of the FBI's field office in Detroit, said the case "is an example of radical and extremist fringe groups which can be found throughout our society. The FBI takes such extremist groups seriously, especially those who would target innocent citizens and the law enforcement officers who protect the citizens of the United States."

The arrests of the Hutaree members come during what experts say has been an explosion of militia activity and right wing extremism. A recent study by the Southern Poverty Law Center puts much of the rise in activity on the bad economy and the election of the nation's first black president.