DETROIT — Rough winter weather forced members of a Midwest Christian militia to cut short a road trip to a rally in Kentucky, so suspected ringleader David Brian Stone used time in the van to hone his speech on the "New World Order" he feared, authorities said Wednesday.
"We are the American military. We outnumber them," a speaker identified as Stone says on an audio tape recorded by an undercover FBI agent. "People should not be afraid of the government. The government should fear the people."
The agent, who infiltrated the Hutaree group and had built explosives under Stone's direction, accompanied Stone and others as they tried to attend a Feb. 6 meeting of militias in Kentucky, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald Waterstreet said during a detention hearing in U.S. District Court in Detroit.
"Now it's time to strike and take our nation back so we will be free of tyranny," Stone, 44, of Clayton, Mich., says on the recording played in court. "The war will come whether we are ready or not."
Stone and eight other suspected Hutaree members, self-proclaimed "Christian warriors" who trained themselves in paramilitary techniques in preparation for a battle against the Antichrist, are charged with seditious conspiracy, or plotting to levy war against the U.S. They were arrested after a series of weekend raids across the Midwest.
Prosecutors say the group planned to make a false 911 call, kill responding police officers, then set off a bomb at the funeral to kill many more. An indictment said that after the attacks, the group planned to retreat to "rally points" protected by trip-wired explosives for a violent standoff with law enforcement personnel.
Waterstreet said as the van carrying the militia members returned to rural Lenawee County in February, it passed a car on the side of the road with a Hudson, Mich., police car behind it, and Stone said "We're going to pop him – guaranteed."
Several defense attorneys objected to Waterstreet's testimony, arguing there was no opportunity to cross-examine the undercover agent.
"All they're saying is my client has an opinion and knows how to use his mouth," Stone's lawyer William Swor said before Waterstreet played the tape. Swor later said Stone's speech was about defending against foreigners and not making war against the U.S. government.
Federal officials said they began monitoring the militia last summer and believed an attack was planned for April. Waterstreet said Hutaree was planning training that month where they would kill people that "came upon them." Court documents said the undercover agent and a cooperating witness were part of the federal probe.
Eight suspects were arraigned Wednesday in Detroit. U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Donald A. Scheer entered not guilty pleas on behalf of seven who stood mute to the charges, including David Brian Stone. Stone's eldest son, 21-year-old Joshua Matthew Stone, pleaded not guilty.
Detention hearings for six defendants followed, but the judge didn't issue a ruling. Two more were scheduled for Thursday. The ninth suspect appeared in court in Indiana but no plea was entered.
In arguing for detention, Waterstreet told the court the suspects' conduct was at issue.
"It's not about a religious group," Waterstreet said. "It's not about the militia. It's about a group who decided to oppose by force the U.S. by using violence and weapons."
Waterstreet said Stone sought to "own his own country," and send police retreating to the cities. Waterstreet said Stone "indicated the wives and children of the brotherhood (police) were equal targets."
The prosecutor also described the hierarchy of Hutaree, saying David Brian Stone led the militia and Joshua Matthew Stone was a squad leader. He said David Brian Stone Jr., the elder Stone's 19-year-old son, was in charge of detonations and explosives.
He said Kristopher Sickles, 27, of Sandusky, Ohio described himself as leading the militia in that state. Sickles bragged that he killed his cat to see if he could shoot something he had feelings for, Waterstreet said.
Others charged in the case had responsibilities including communications and recruitment, Waterstreet said. He said Michael David Meeks, 40, and Thomas W. Piatek, 46, of Whiting, Ind. were "heavy gunners" in charge of "laying down heavy fire" in encounters with the enemy.
Meeks was one of those expected to face a detention hearing Thursday. His lawyer said evidence would be presented that distinguishes Meeks from the other defendants, and that he denied involvement in any plot to overthrow the government.
Family members of defendants who were in court Wednesday refused to comment after the hearing.
In Indiana, Judge Paul Cherry ordered Piatek held without bond and transferred to Michigan to face weapons and conspiracy charges with the other defendants.
A federal prosecutor testified that FBI agents found 46 guns and 13,000 rounds of ammunition in Piatek's home in Whiting, Indiana.
Defense attorney Jerry Flynn said Piatek denied planning to participate in the alleged plot.
Associated Press writers David Runk in Detroit and Tom Coyne in Hammond, Ind. contributed to this report.