An undercover agent was part of the federal investigation of a Michigan-based Christian militia group that allegedly planned to spark an uprising against the government by killing police officers, court documents show.
Evidence presented to the grand jury in federal court in Detroit included photographs of Thomas William Piatek, one of nine people indicted Monday in connection with alleged criminal activities by the militia group, known as Hutaree, in southeastern Michigan.
The grand-jury exhibit included sworn testimony of a law-enforcement officer that Mr. Piatek "is the person known by a Cooperating Witness and an undercover FBI agent to be the person who participated in the criminal violations" detailed in the indictment.
The court had to briefly unseal the indictment, issued Tuesday, March 23, in order to correct Mr. Piatek's middle name, which had been incorrectly written in the arrest warrant and indictment as "Edward." The indictment was publicly unsealed in federal court Monday.
A spokesperson at the FBI's Detroit office declined to comment on the undercover agent and any role such an agent may have had in the investigation. A spokesman at the Justice Department in Washington also declined to discuss specifics of the investigation.
Infiltration is a common tactic for law-enforcement officials targeting militia groups. It has been widely used to get inside domestic extremist groups, which have in the past proven easier to infiltrate than Islamic terror groups.
In recent months, the FBI also has used one or more undercover agents or employees to carry out sting operations against suspected Islamic terrorists. Hosam Smadi and Michael Finton were both arrested last fall by the FBI after they conspired with the help of undercover agents to blow up public buildings with car bombs packed with fake explosives.
Hutaree planned to kill an unidentified local law-enforcement officer in April and then attack local, state and federal officers who came to Michigan to attend the funeral, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan said in a 12-page indictment.
Seven members of the group were arraigned in federal court in Detroit, one was arraigned in federal court in the Northern District of Indiana and the last was arrested Monday night. Those arraigned were ordered held without bond until further hearings this week. Federal agents made the arrests after weekend raids in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.
The indictment said Hutaree had practiced attacks and other military maneuvers for more than a year, and had planned to use homemade bombs like those used against U.S. forces by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bombs were the key part of the alleged plot to attack the funeral of a law-enforcement officer, the indictment said.
After that attack, the group planned to retreat to a remote "rally point" from which members would resist an expected response by the government, sparking what Hutaree's alleged leader, David Brian Stone, hoped would be a wider uprising against the government, the indictment said. FBI agent Andrew Arena called Hutaree "an example of radical and extremist fringe groups which can be found throughout our society."
The group, whose name means "Christian Warrior," according to its Web site, didn't respond to emails. The Web site said the group was preparing for "the anti-Christ" and expected to "one day see its enemy and meet him on the battlefield." The site quotes scripture passages alluding to battle and the sacrifice of lives for a greater cause. The group used tiger-striped camouflage uniforms, the indictment said.
Security officials in Washington have been watching the rejuvenation of the militia movement with unease for the past year. Some of the same conditions that last led to a surge of militias in the early 1990s—a tough economic environment and a Democratic administration in the White House—prevail today, investigators said.
The election of Barack Obama as the country's first African-American president has galvanized some white supremacist in parts of the militia universe. Domestic terrorism from armed groups not connected to Islamic ideology is possible, said Lydia Khalil, a counter-terrorism researcher at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
Heidi Beirich, director of research for the Southern Poverty Law Center, Montgomery, Ala., said Hutaree has a MySpace page listing more than 300 "friends," some of which are members of other militia groups.
Monday's indictment named Mr. Stone, 45 years old; his wife Tina Mae Stone, 44; and his son Joshua Matthew Stone, 21, all of Clayton, Mich.; Mr. Stone's other son, David Brian Stone Jr., 19, of Adrian, Mich.; and five other men from Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. The indictment said they conspired to engage in armed conflict with law enforcement officials.
Joshua Matthew Stone was arrested by federal authorities in Hillsdale County, Mich., officials said. He was arraigned Tuesday before a U.S. District Court magistrate and was ordered held without bond until a hearing Wednesday.
At the courthouse in Detroit Monday, a woman who identified herself as the elder Mr. Stone's ex-wife and David Brian Stone Jr.'s father, said that she left him "four or five years ago" after she felt he'd become dangerous. "When he went from handguns to big guns, I said, 'Enough,"' said Donna Stone, 44, of Adrian, Mich.
Andrea Harsh, a friend of Donna Stone, said from her trailer in Adrian about 75 miles southwest of Detroit that she had once been engaged to the elder Mr. Stone but found him to be too violent and "I got out." Ms. Harsh said, "He makes it sound like he's out to promote Christianity. But he's not in it for Christ, he's in it to make a name for himself." She added that he "thought he could hide from the government."
According to those women, Mr. Stone lives in a pair of attached trailers at the corner of two dirt roads. In the yard Monday, thee dogs were chained in the yard near an SUV.
On Saturday night, federal agents arrived at the Adrian apartment of Brittany Bryant, Ms. Harsh's daughter and the fiance of David Brian Stone Jr. The younger Mr. Stone had recently moved into the apartment, Ms. Bryant said. Authorities came in with their guns out, she said, and spent about three hours searching the premises, taking, among other things, Bibles, her cellphone, notebooks, a camouflage military jacket and a belt buckle reading, "God, Guns and Guts."
Ms. Bryant said her fiance "did very little" with the Hutaree group. She said he recently got a job at a factory and "was just trying to get his life together."
Saturday afternoon in Sandusky, Ohio, federal agents swarmed a trailer park. Two residents said their two dogs started to bark as federal agents with guns piled out of a yellow truck marked SWAT. They soon emerged with Kristopher T. Sickles, 27, one of those charged Monday, in handcuffs.
The Monks said they'd never met Mr. Sickles, but talked occasionally with his wife, Kelly. "He looked normal to me...nothing stood out about him," Mr. Monk said. Reached by telephone Monday, Ms. Sickles said her husband of three years is "innocent" and "had no idea that any of this was going on."
Also on Saturday night, federal agents showed up in Whiting, Ind., at a two-story brick home where Mr. Piatek, 46, had grown up, neighbors said.
Amanda Behrens, manager of Gusto's Pizza next door, said the tall, lean Mr. Piatek frequently wore Army fatigue pants and combat boots, "but I never suspected he would do anything dangerous. It just seemed like he had a hobby of military stuff." She trusted Mr. Piatek enough that she felt comfortable working night shifts alone because he pledged to keep an eye on her.
Mr. Piatek wasn't home for the raid, but was arrested early Sunday in Clarendon Hills, Ill. News of his fate has rocked Whiting, Indiana, which remains the largely Catholic and Eastern European neighborhood it was decades ago, said longtime resident Melaine Kaminsky, 51. "This doesn't happen in our town," she said, adding that she heard of the raid of Mr. Piatek's home within 15 minutes of it happening. "This is the real deal, this is scary. It's all everybody's talking about."
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