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Defense argues FBI never took militia seriously

By Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press –

DETROIT — The government never took the Hutaree militia seriously, but planted undercover spies in the group just to “nail them.”

That’s what the defense in the terror trial argued Thursday in disclosing some embarrassing — and potentially damaging — emails written by FBI agents who were investigating the militia group.

One of the emails was written shortly before the FBI planted an undercover agent in the Hutaree who posed as a New Jersey trucker with a knack for working with explosives.

“So we’re hoping our (undercover agent) can target these guys to see if they bite on additional explosives and weapons activity so we can nail them,” FBI agent Leslie Larsen wrote in the email.

The undercover agent himself was in court Thursday. Stephen Haug was grilled about one of his own emails, including one he wrote about the infamous anti-government hate speech that Hutaree leader David Stone Sr. made during a foiled trip to Kentucky.

Haug had secretly recorded the speech, which was emailed to various FBI agents. In the email chain, Haug wrote:

“Please hum the Star Spangled Banner and the Battle Hymn of the Republic while reading this. It’ll give you goose bumps,” Haug wrote in the email.

Stone’s lawyer, William Swor, asked Haug to explain the email for jurors.

“You were mocking Mr. Stone, weren’t you?” Swor asked the undercover agent.

“No. I thought it was funny,” Haug responded from the stand. “We joke in law enforcement, sir.”

Swor also played for the jury a taped phone conversation in which Haug is reporting back to the FBI some of the many rantings he has heard Stone Sr. make, especially about his hate of police officers.

“He really hates the sheriff … Yeah, it’s pretty funny,” Haug said in the recording.

The word “funny,” the defense claims, goes to the heart of its argument.

“The government never took the Hutaree seriously,” Swor said in court Thursday.

Seven Hutaree militia members are on trial on charges they plotted a violent revolt on the government that involved homemade bombs and scores of guns. Among the group’s schemes, the government claims, was to kill a police officer and bomb the funeral.

In court Thursday, jurors heard recordings in which Stone Sr. talks about conducting a “test run” with explosives on an unsuspecting vehicle.

“Something with little blue and red lights on top would be good to test it on,” Stone Sr. said in the recording.

Jurors also have heard recordings involving talks about funerals, including one statement by Stone Sr. that funerals would lure “cops coming from every state.” No exact plan with a specific target on a specific date is ever mentioned in the recordings.

That’s because, the defense claims, there never was any real plan to harm anyone. The defendants were just blowing off steam — which is protected by free speech rights — and the prosecution has taken their comments out of context and exaggerated the seriousness of them, the defense argues.

Doug Meeks, whose brother Michael Meeks is on trial, agreed.

“Dungeons and Dragons is more believable than this conspiracy,” Meeks said after court Thursday.

The government disagrees, and has argued that it stopped a violent plan in the making. It has played recordings in court in which Stone Sr. is heard saying he’s going to “pop” a specific Hudson, Mich., police officer one day, “guaranteed.” Jurors also have heard Stone Sr. talk about going to war by targeting police officers first, and about having no qualms about killing the officers’ wives and children.

The trial is expected to wrap up by month’s end. The jury will then deliberate.

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