DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – The FBI returned military-style gear, credit cards, a watch and even a wedding ring on Friday to the leader of a Michigan militia who was recently acquitted of conspiring to rebel against the government.
David Stone and his wife, Tina, parked a pickup truck and trailer outside the McNamara Federal Building in Detroit and met FBI employees who rolled out several boxes seized during raids in Lenawee County in March 2010.
The Stones and five other Hutaree militia members were acquitted last month of conspiring to wage war against the government and use weapons of mass destruction. David Stone, who had been locked up without bail for two years, pleaded guilty to a gun charges and was released. He will be sentenced in August.
Stone, 51, was especially pleased to get his wedding ring, which his wife slowly slipped on to his finger at the back of the trailer.
“About time,” he said.
Much of the gear is military-style vests and accessories that was worn by militia members when they trained in the woods of southern Michigan. Tina Stone joked that they might sell it on eBay.
“It’s one more step in getting our lives back to normal,” she said of reclaiming the possessions.
Prosecutors claimed the militia planned to launch a violent strike against the government, first by killing a police officer and then attacking the funeral. The FBI recorded hundreds of hours of video and audio, including anti-government rants by Stone and others.
After six weeks of trial, however, U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts dismissed most charges, saying there might have been “something fishy” going on but that prosecutors had failed to show a specific plot to use force against the government.
Defense lawyers said the Hutaree were simply “weekend warriors” who engaged in stupid, hateful speech, but nothing criminal. They said offensive talk was wrongly turned into a high-profile criminal case.
The seven defendants included David Stone’s sons, David Stone Jr. and Joshua Stone. They also were acquitted of conspiracy, but Joshua Stone, like his dad, pleaded guilty to a gun charge.
Tina and David Stone are living with family in Hillsdale County and don’t plan to return to Lenawee County, their former home and the site of militia training. David Stone said they might eventually leave Michigan, although that would initially depend on whether a judge sends him to prison for possessing a machine gun.
“I’m not bitter,” he said of the government’s undercover investigation, criminal charges and two years in jail. “This is what happens when big government gets out of control and steamrolls people. This is a perfect case for the tea party to look at.”
Steve Haug, an undercover FBI agent who infiltrated the militia, served as best man at the Stones’ wedding in 2009. Tina Stone joked that they should renew their marriage vows and have Haug sign the license again.
“We want him to sign his real name,” she said.
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