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Another member of Christian militia Hutaree arrested

Joshua Stone, 21, whose father and brother are already in custody, surrenders in Michigan. He is one of nine 'warriors' of the anti-government group charged in an alleged plot against police.

March 31, 2010|By Richard Fausset

Reporting from Atlanta — Federal officials in Michigan have arrested a ninth member of the Hutaree, the Christian anti-government militia charged with plotting to use "weapons of mass destruction" in an attack on police.

The suspect, Joshua Matthew Stone of Clayton, Mich., surrendered to federal agents in nearby Hillsdale County, in the southern part of the state, Gina Balaya, a spokeswoman with the U.S. attorney's office in Detroit, said Tuesday.

Other members of Stone's family were already in custody -- brother David Brian Stone Jr., 19; father David Brian Stone, 45; and Tina Mae Stone, 44, David Sr.'s wife.

FBI Special Agent Sandra Berchtold, a spokeswoman in the Detroit field office, said agents surrounded a rural residence where Joshua Stone, 21, was staying with five other adults and a child.

Berchtold said they waited several hours for Stone to come out, occasionally playing recordings made by friends and family that urged him not to take a violent stand.

Stone emerged late Monday with the others in the house, who were questioned and released.

Similar encounters with fringe groups have famously ended in tragedy for the FBI. The violent siege at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992, and the deadly standoff at a Waco, Texas, religious compound in 1993 are considered egregious abuses of government power in some quarters. Both incidents helped spark the rise of the militia movement in the 1990s.

"We didn't want this to turn into, you know . . . anything," Berchtold said. "We wanted everybody safely on our side to go home. And we wanted Josh Stone to be safely taken to jail."

Members of the Hutaree, according to the group's website, consider themselves "Christian warriors," and were preparing for armed self-defense and the arrival of the Antichrist.

According to a federal indictment, the suspects considered local, state and federal police to be an enemy "brotherhood." Federal officials allege the suspects had been plotting to kill a local law enforcement officer, and then attack with homemade bombs the officers who came to the funeral.

All nine are facing charges of seditious conspiracy, attempted use of weapons of mass destruction, teaching the use of explosives and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence.

The Stones and four other suspects are being detained in Detroit; a ninth suspect, Thomas Piatek, 46, of Whiting, Ind., is in custody in that state. All are expected to enter pleas at court hearings Wednesday, Balaya said.

The high-profile arrests over the weekend come as part of what the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that tracks such groups, has called "an explosion of new extremist groups and activism across the nation" after the election of President Obama.

In militia circles, news of the Hutaree arrests has been met with varying responses.

Michael Vanderboegh, an Alabama blogger and former militia member, said on his website that the government went after the Hutaree as a means of smearing the reputation of a "revitalized constitutional militia movement" that, although skeptical and critical of government, is not extremist.

Lee Miracle, a coordinator for the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia, said he wasn't worried about the reputation of his group, which on its website prominently denounces "subversive or quasi-subversive" groups acting against the government.

People following the Hutaree saga "understand that it's not us," Miracle said.

richard.fausset@

latimes.com

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