Gun dealer with ties to Hutaree faces federal indictment

The Detroit News/April 21, 2010

Detroit - An Adrian firearms dealer linked to the Hutaree militia case has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Detroit.

Walter L. Priest, 52, is charged with possessing a rifle with an obliterated serial number in an indictment handed down Tuesday and filed today in U.S. District Court in Detroit. It's a five-year felony.

Priest is the firearms dealer whose investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives prompted outraged e-mails and other Internet postings from members of an accused radical militia group called the Hutaree, according to court records and interviews.

"Looks like the ATF enforcers are looking for a reason to start a firefight," accused Hutaree leader David Stone Sr. allegedly said in a 2008 e-mail after learning federal agents were combing through records at Priest's Adrian store, Gun Outfitters LLC.

"And we will answer the call."

The charge in the indictment is not related to the Hutaree case, said Gina Balaya, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit. The charge relates to a rifle Priest allegedly sold at a gun show in 2008, she said.

Priest's 25-year-old son Jason, a suspected bomb maker who earlier served time for possessing explosives with intent to terrorize, was sentenced to nine years in prison March 5 for being a felon in possession of firearms.

Prosecutors say that when Jason Priest was arrested, Stone and his son Joshua approached Walter Priest and offered to break Jason Priest out of jail. Walter Priest rebuffed the offer, prosecutors said. Priest, who could not be reached for comment, has since denied that the jail break offer happened, a person familiar with the case said.

The ATF investigation of the Priests and the FBI investigation of the Hutaree were independent investigations that intersected in Adrian, officials said.

Stone and eight others are accused of plotting to kill police officers and wage war against the U.S. government. They were arrested in sweeps that began March 27 and charged in an indictment unsealed March 29 with offenses that include seditious conspiracy and attempted use of weapons of mass destruction.

Appeals of orders that the Hutaree defendants be jailed without bond to await trial are set for Tuesday, though the date of that hearing could change.

Priest has yet to appear in court.

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