Nine members of an antigovernment Lenawee County militia group walked into U.S. District Court in Detroit on Thursday expecting to shed their foot shackles, but instead they headed back to jail after a last-minute filing by the U.S. Attorney's Office.
By 4:30 p.m., defense lawyers for the Hutaree Christian militia group had filed their own motion, urging the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati to uphold a judge's decision to free the group on bond as they await trial.
The defense lawyers said U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts in Detroit had thoroughly reviewed the evidence against the members and concluded they were neither a danger to the community nor a flight risk and could be freed with more than two dozen bond restrictions, including house arrest, electronic monitoring and curfews.
Among other things, federal prosecutors and an FBI agent who was called to testify last week during detention hearings, "could not provide any differentiation between the conduct" of the nine indicted Hutaree members and the 25 unindicted members.
"If the government has no concern about the unindicted Hutaree members being at large in the community, then why does it allege, without support, an unsubstantiated concern" for the jailed members of the group, the defense wrote in the appellate filing.
The nine members, including David Stone, 45, of Clayton, who is suspected to be the leader, were arrested in FBI raids in late March on charges of plotting the violent overthrow of the U.S. government and attempting to use weapons of mass destruction. A magistrate initially ordered them detained, but on Monday, after two days of bond hearings, Roberts ordered their release.
Prosecutors immediately asked for -- and got -- a stay until they could get permission to appeal, which happened Wednesday. But Roberts dissolved the stay late Wednesday, saying the government had failed to change her mind.
The defendants were on the verge of being released Thursday morning when prosecutors informed defense lawyers that they had obtained a temporary stay from the Court of Appeals.
Defense attorney Mark Satawa, who represents suspect Michael Meeks, said he still expects to prevail.
"It's unfortunate that the government is such sore losers," Satawa said. "They're only delaying the inevitable."
It's unclear how long the appeals court will take to resolve the issue.