Experts See Broader Ramifications in Acquittals of Hutaree Militia


The acquittal of seven Michigan militia members charged with conspiring to go to war against the government could make federal agents reluctant to pursue certain investigations at a time when the number of so-called patriot groups is increasing nationwide, reports the Associated Press. “It’s an embarrassment to the government to lose this case,” said Mark Potok, who tracks extremist groups at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama. “I very much worry this could discourage officials from moving forward on the most open-and-shut cases in the future. I’m not trying to criticize the judge at all, but it might have ramifications.”

Potok’s center counted more than 1,200 anti-government groups last year and lists them on its website. The FBI recently said it is focusing on “sovereign citizen” extremists who don’t recognize government authority. The FBI ran an 18-month probe of the Hutaree militia and placed an informant and undercover agent inside the group. After six weeks of trial, however, a judge this week said the case didn’t even deserve to go to the jury and declared all seven not guilty. Prosecutors this week acknowledged there was no specific plan — an admission that clearly irritated the judge. “What the government has shown, instead of a concrete agreement and plan to forcibly oppose the authority of the government, is that most — if not all — of these defendants held strong anti-government sentiments,” Roberts said in a 28-page decision. “But the court must not guess about what defendants intended to do with their animosity.”

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