Thursday, March 29, 2012

Hutaree Trial Jurors Speak Out, Imply They Would Have Acquitted On Conspiracy Charges But Convicted On Weapons Charges

Because U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts effectively took the Hutaree militia case out of the hands of the jury when she decided to dismiss the charges on her own on March 28th, 2012, many wonder how the jury of 12 primaries and four alternates, made up of nine women and seven men and including four Blacks, would have decided had they received the case. For those not up to speed on the case, the Detroit Free Press provides a convenient timeline of the entire case.

Beacuse this was a complex case involving multiple defendants, here's a roll call of the defendants and their dispositions. The Feds arrested a grand total of nine Hutaree militia members, but only seven participated in the just-concluded trial:

-- David Stone Jr., Tina Stone, Michael Meeks, Thomas Piatek, and Christopher Sickles: All five acquitted on all charges in the trial. Face no additional charges. Now free and clear.

-- David Stone Sr. and Joshua Stone: Acquitted on all conspiracy charges in the trial, but still faced charges of possession of a machine gun and possession of an unregistered firearm. On March 29th, both pleaded guilty to one count each of illegally possessing a machine gun; when sentenced in August, Stone Sr. will face 33 to 48 months in prison, while Joshua Stone will face 27-33 months. Both currently released on bail.

-- Joshua John Clough and Jacob Ward: Neither one participated in the just-concluded trial. Clough pleaded guilty in December 2011 and will spend at least five years in federal prison on a charge of using a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. Ward was ruled incompetent to stand trial in July 2011 and ordered to undergo treatment.

The Detroit News provides some answers to the jury question on March 29th, and the responses by the trial jurors indicate that while a conviction of weapons charges was highly probable, an acquittal on conspiracy charges was just as highly probable. The Detroit News quotes three different jurors:

-- Rickey Randall, 58, of St. Clair Shores: "They overstepped a little bit. It wasn't there. It was just a lot of talk, talk, talk and no action. We were all on the same page. They saw what I saw. I felt it was an overreach. I was shocked by what the government presented."

-- Trevor Lyon, 31, of Berkley: Prosecutors had a "firm grasp on the weapons charges, but lacked foundation on conspiracy charges. It was the outcome that was going to happen either way. That's my gut feeling as to how the jury would have gone about it."

-- Melissa Roberts, 35, of Clinton: Agreed that the weapons charges were the only counts that could have stood up, but not much else; "I was waiting for that big piece of evidence that was going to convince me. I don't know if I believe they should have been arrested."

David Stone Sr. also held forth after the acquittal was announced, saying that he was glad to be finally released from Wayne County Jail after two years, characterizing it as one of the worst jails in the country. He said the case is a warning to the public showing that this could happen to anyone, and added that "It's amazing how someone can take a comment out of context and make it into what they want it to be." He predicted that distrust of the federal government would escalate.

Because of the similarities between the Hutaree case and the Schaeffer Cox case, the Hutaree case can be used as a guide to how the Cox case might proceed when trial begins on May 25th. While it's unlikely the Alaska Federal judge assigned to the case might also dismiss the case, it's quite possible that a jury might also decide to convict on the weapons charge but acquit on the conspiracy charges. It's also possible that the jury might come up with different verdicts for each defendant; the level of involvement by Coleman Barney is clearly not as extensive or deep as that of Schaeffer Cox, who went so far as to give seminars on the sovereign citizen concept in the Lower 48. The sentences set for the two Hutaree gun defendants give us an idea on how long Cox and his cohorts might be sentenced should they also be convicted on weapons charges. Read the superseding indictment in the Cox case HERE.

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