Court: Ind. militiaman danger to community

June 22, 2010 Piatek is accused by federal prosecutors of taking part in Hutaree, a violent anti-government militia group. He portrayed himself as a solid American who would help anyone and enjoyed the "Fourth of July parade."

A U.S. Court of Appeals panel disagreed with that patriotic assessment, ruling that "Piatek was heavily involved with the Hutaree; made a statement in favor of killing agents/civilians, and possessed a substantial arsenal of weapons. Moreover, hehas made statements indicating a violent intent toward his girlfriend, which we may consider as evidence of dangerousness."

A lower court had ruled that Piatek and several other individuals were eligible to be released on bond by authorities in the Eastern District of Michigan where the Hutaree clan is based and the case was brought. The government appealed that bond decision and Tuesday's appeals court ruling determined that "viewing all of the factors together, we conclude that, as to Thomas Piatek, no conditions of release will reasonably assure the safety of the community."

The decision reverses that lower court ruling and insures that Mr. Piatek will not be permitted to bond out.

Despite evidence that Piatek, 47, has family connections in Indiana and has held a Chicago truck driving job for 17 years, appellate judges were focused on the arsenal of four dozen guns and 13,000 rounds of ammo that federal agents found in his home along with smoke grenades and body armor. The guns were legal, the court noted, but could have been used to carry out threats against police discussed during a Hutaree road trip to a Kentucky militia conference.

The appeals court ruled against bond for several other Hutaree members as well, including those accused as Hutaree leaders.

One judge did disagree with portions of the ruling. Judge Helene White stated that "the group and its members had never taken any action except for field training, and some of the taped conversations appeared to be in jest."

Regardless, the case now returns to district court in Detroit. Piatek's lawyer, Arthur Weiss, said he was disappointed by the decision, according to the Detroit Free Press newspaper. Contrary to the opinion, Weiss told the Free Press, Piatek had never expressed hatred for law enforcement and that he had never threatened his girlfriend. Weiss said he plans to ask the appeals court to let Piatek address those two issues.

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