Court drops charges against 'Hutaree' militia

David Stone Sr. (R) holds the hand of his wife Tina while they leave the federal courthouse with their sons David Jr. (2nd L), and Joshua in Detroit, Michigan March 29, 2012. David Brian Stone Sr., the leader of the group called the Hutaree, and his son Joshua Stone each pleaded guilty before Judge Victoria Roberts in federal court in Detroit to possession of a machine gun. (Reuters / Jeff Kowalsky)
On Tuesday a federal judge dismissed charges on a case that took the FBI years to investigate and was presented as the biggest success in the fight against "extremist Christian militias."

Seven members of the Michigan militia known as the “Hutaree militia” blew a sigh of relief after US District Judge Victoria Roberts granted defense requests for acquittal on charges of conspiring to commit sedition or rebellion against the US and conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction.

"The judge had a lot of guts," defense attorney William Swor said to the Associated Press.

"It would have been very easy to say, 'The heck with it,' and hand it off to the jury. But the fact is she looked at the evidence, and she looked at it very carefully," he continued.

According to reports, the group led by David Stone Sr. and his son Joshua Stone, allegedly was plotting to kill a police officer and bomb a funeral.

The crew, which was suspected of being “homegrown” terrorists, was accused of conspiring a war against the US government. But Roberts felt the evidence presented to her wasn’t adequate enough to bring convictions against the individuals.

The charges could have resulted in the defendants serving life sentences behind bars.

The FBI had positioned an informant among the group in 2008 and the spy claimed the militia was armed for a war. Prosecutors said the members of the “anti-government” rebels were prepared for a violent attack.

The snitch, Dan Murray was paid $31,000 for his efforts and an FBI agent from New Jersey was also embedded. Steve Haug, or "Jersey Steve," pretended to be a trucker and over several months recorded talks with Dave Stone. Jersey Steve even stood as David Stone's best man the AP reported.

Haug regularly spoke with David Stone about making pipe bombs and the agent also rented a storage facility in Ann Arbor, Michigan where the he would invite Stone to stockpile weapons.

Among the evidence collected, audio and video recordings became the foundation for the case.

"The court is aware that protected speech and mere words can be sufficient to show a conspiracy. In this case, however, they do not rise to that level," the judge told USA Today.

The trial will continue on Thursday for gun charges against David and Joshua Stone. The two men have been in police custody for roughly two years and have been held without bond since the raid.

The attacks which never happen are being attributed to the Federal agent’s quick response to the alleged threat, and the agents feel this is a huge blow to their efforts. David Stone was documented saying he was prepared to slay police and their families if necessary and considered them part of a "brotherhood."

He believed the alleged “brotherhood” was an evil international power that incorporated federal law agents.

Stone’s attorney claimed Stone is a Christian who was preparing for war against the Antichrist.

"This is not the United States government. This is Satan's army," Swor told the judge.

Eventually the judge decided that even though Stone's statements might seem questionable, they are protected by the US Constitution.

Richard Helfrick, another attorney involved in the case said, "it's a good day for the First and Second amendments."