Hutaree Militia May Be Released: A Dangerous Decision?

The judge has given the prosecution until Wednesday to make the case

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While the national spotlight may be on the unfolding narrative of New York's recent terror scare, the story of Michigan's Hutaree milita is far from over. The New York Times' Nick Bunkley reported on Monday that Judge Victoria A. Roberts had ordered the nine members of the extremist militia be released on bond until their trial, stating "that prosecutors did not demonstrate that the defendants would pose a danger if released." The Hutaree are accused of plotting to kill police officers as part of a plan to wage war against the government. Prosecutors had argued that bail should be denied because the group posed a severe danger to public safety.

Reporting for the Detroit Free Press, David Ashenfelter reports that federal authorities won a delay in the release, with Judge Roberts noting that "the government's request for a stay was "woefully inadequate," but said that given the public interest in her decision Monday to grant bond to the defendants, a temporary delay was justified." Indeed, reactions to the Hutaree's temporary release are mixed, with a few questions underlying public concerns: how sound is the standard of danger underpinning Judge Roberts' ruling, and is this case viable at all?

  • How Is This Not Domestic Terrorism? Writing for the Huffington Post, NYU Professor Louis Klaveras expresses concern that Judge Roberts "might also have overstretched her logic a bit" in declaring that the Hutaree's discussions do no translate into an actual effort to overthrow the U.S. government. "In reviewing the evidence as to whether or not to release criminal defendants on bail, judges are required, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §3142(g), to consider 'the nature and circumstances of the offense charged, including whether the offense is a crime of violence, ... a Federal crime of terrorism, or involves a ... firearm, explosive, or destructive device,'" writes Klaveras. "According to the indictment, the Hutaree case involves all of the above." Klaveras concludes: "If the government is wrong about the intentions and capabilities of the Hutaree, it needs to re-think its prosecution. If the government is correct, however, Roberts in essence risks freeing suspected terrorists."
  • Why Are People So Concerned? At ScienceBlogs, Ed Brayton suggests that Judge Roberts' strict bond conditions are enough to allay serious concerns: "All defendants will be confined to their homes and have monitoring bracelets that track their location at all times. They must surrender all licenses to carry weapons and submit to random checks from Pre Trial Services. The conditions also include a ban on all alcohol and drug use. Each defendant is also required to surrender their passports and is forbidden from using a police scanner." Jesse Walker at Reason concurs, declaring the prosecution's call for a stay "a pretty desperate argument, given that the defendants were to be held under house arrest on electronic tethers."
  • How Is This Not a Political Ploy? At Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds puts the burden on federal authorities. He admits it's only "speculation" to suppose that feds "rushed the arrest" because of "pressure from the Administration to generate some militia-threat headlines precisely at the time that the 'militia threat' was the talking-point of the day. But it’s not unreasonable speculation, based on what we know so far . . ."
  • How Does Anyone Buy This Case? William Grigg at finds the decision sound, given the government's shaky case against the militia. "Judge Roberts didn’t find the government’s case compelling. 'Discussions about killing local law enforcement officers — and even discussions about killing members of the judicial branch of government — do not translate to conspiring to overthrow, or levy war against, the United States government'" notes Grigg. "Since the federal case against the Hutaree rests entirely on what was said by the suspects, rather than anything specific that was done by them, it’s difficult to see what’s left of it."
  • How Is This Not Ridiculous? While the staff of Gawker do not deign to be experts on terrorism, Jeff Neumann articulates the general outrage with a verbal swing at Judge Roberts. "The judge said that "the offenses charged against these defendants may not be as serious as the government contends,"" scoffs Neumann. "The Hutaree members are charged with seditious conspiracy and attempted use of weapons of mass destruction, after they planned to murder a police officer and ambush the funeral procession with roadside bombs. But pose a threat? No way! They were just joking around."
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