After openly questioning the extent of the government’s evidence against nine members of the the Christian fundamentalist Hutaree militia, U.S. District Judge Victoria A. Roberts has ordered the release of the Hutaree Nine on bail, although pausing in the implementation of that release to give federal prosecutors time to revise and resubmit a “woefully inadequate” appeal.
In her 36-page decision issued yesterday, Judge Roberts cited the right of the Hutarees to talk trash about the government in a van:
While the Government contends that the crimes charged against Defendants go well beyond speech, there is no doubt that controversial, offensive and hate-filled speech is implicated. In their defense, the Defendants disagree that this case implicates anything other than speech, and, that whatever they said, did not amount to a conspiracy to commit illegal acts. The Defendants argue that the language they used does not “instruct, solicit, or persuade others to commit crimes of violence.” See United States v. Rahman, 189 F.3d 88, 117 (2nd Cir. 1999). They disagree that any of them had an intention to commit seditious conspiracy to overthrow, or levy way against, the United States Government.
The United States is correct that it need not wait until people are killed before it arrests conspirators. But, the Defendants are also correct: their right to engage in hate-filled, venomous speech, is a right that deserves First Amendment protection…. The Court need not decide now, whether Defendants will be able to raise a First Amendment defense. However, the Defendants do raise principled arguments concerning the First Amendment protection afforded, even to speech we hate. For the reasons stated, the Court finds: (1) Defendants met their burden to produce evidence in favor of release; and (2) the Government failed to persuade the Court that Defendants must be held until trial.
Judge Roberts complains that the government’s evidence of seditious conspiracy is often ridiculous, including the burning of a United Nations flag, and says of the infamous Hutaree van speech, “This so-called speech – never delivered outside the van – speaks of reclaiming America, not overthrowing the United States Government.”
On the other hand, Hutaree leader David Stone and his son and follower Joshua Stone are quoted as declaring the following to the other Hutarees:
DAVID STONE: In April, we’re gonna get dropped on the ground and do a real op. April’s gonna consist of two training[s]. It’ll be the second Saturday of April, and the forth[sic] Saturday of April.
JOSHUA STONE: Welcome to your first real training.
JOSHUA STONE: And as far as this training in April, don’t be afraid to pull the trigger on anybody, if we have to.
JOSHUA STONE: Now if we do wind up plugging somebody, welcome to ah ah, the first training of really shooting someone.
There are a lot of ellipses there, but “pulling the trigger” and “plugging somebody” and “really shooting someone” are hard to misinterpret. And then there’s this:
DAVID STONE: We’re gonna . . . we’re gonna pop [a Hudson police cop] – guaranteed!
. . .
DAVID STONE: We’re gonna pop every one of [the Hudson police cops]. There we go. “Hey, you think we got him?” “Yeah!” “Why?” “There[sic] all dead.”
DAVID STONE: You kill enough cops, you can’t get enough people to take the job. Why? I’m not gonna become a cop and go die.
JOSHUA STONE: Yeah.
DAVID STONE: Become a cop and last, last two weeks on the street, nah, that’s ok. I’ll stay working at Burger King.
How realistic is the plan to kill police officers?
Kristopher Sickles: Sneak in their house, poison their milk.
DAVID STONE: All the cops are dead in their houses. Who’s gonna come out and fight us?
KRISTOPHER SICKLES: Slash their tires first, you know what I mean.
As the Christian fundamentalist Hutaree tops off these ideas, Judge Roberts notes that “there is also a discussion of strippers.”
And what about militia connections? Here’s an interesting tidbit:
The Government argues that Sickles is the self-proclaimed leader of the Ohio Militia. Sickles proffered at the bond review hearing, however, that the Ohio Militia has two members – one of whom is Sickles.
Finally, after discussing First Amendment protections in favor of the defendants, Judge Roberts issues as a condition of bail that the Hutaree website be shut down and that accused members of the Hutarees not be permitted to associate with one another, with fellow non-accused Hutarees, or with members of self-proclaimed militias.
What do you think of all this?