|David Brian Stone leads the Hutaree militia, prosecutors say, and aimed to wage war against the US government.|
Christian militia group was poised to attack, prosecutor says
Apocalyptic beliefs at core, specialist says
DETROIT — It started inside a trailer home in rural Michigan, where a small family gathered before bed for prayer. Years later, the private devotions had evolved into a small militia of “Christian warriors’’ preparing to fight the antichrist.
The changes in David Brian Stone’s theology partly destroyed his marriage, his former wife says, and prosecutors claim they later led him to hatch a plot to kill police officers, which the militia hoped would touch off an uprising against the government.
“The time had come that we needed to arrest them and take them down,’’ US Attorney Barbara McQuade said yesterday.
Prosecutors believe Stone, 44, is the ringleader of the Hutaree militia, a name the group’s website says it created to mean Christian warrior. He was among eight members arrested during weekend raids in three Midwestern states. Federal officials said they had monitored the group since summer and learned they planned to launch their attack next month.
A ninth defendant — Stone’s son, Joshua Matthew Stone — turned himself in Monday after an hourslong standoff with FBI agents and police near a wooded area southwest of Detroit the group had used for training. He and the others face charges that include seditious conspiracy, or plotting to levy war against the United States.
Donna Stone, 44, said her former husband created the legal problems now faced by her stepson, Joshua Stone, and her 19-year-old son, David Brian Stone Jr., by involving them in a militia that grew out of his faith.
“I honestly feel, and think, their dad never told either of those boys what they were getting into,’’ she said. “This a bunch of garbage, these charges. There is no way my son would do these things.’’
Donna Stone said she met David Brian Stone in the late 1990s in a grocery superstore where she worked. Soon afterward, she and her son, Sean Stetten, moved into his small trailer in Lenawee County. The boys were raised as brothers, and David Brian Stone legally adopted Sean, whose name was changed to David Brian Stone Jr.
Both boys were home-schooled. At night, the family would pray together.
“David would preach out of the Bible,’’ said Donna Stone, who said she was married to David Brian Stone for about six years. “He would start at the beginning of Genesis and go to Revelations. He didn’t get into Revelations because we didn’t agree on it. David said it was supposed to be different. He had his own views. That’s when I thought it was time for me to go.’’
The Hutaree website declares: “We believe that one day, as prophecy says, there will be an Anti-Christ. . . . Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment.’’
Chip Berlet, a senior analyst with Political Research Associates, a think tank in Somerville, Mass., said Hutaree’s online writings suggest the group espouses a Christian apocalyptic ideology and believes the government is “in league with Satan’’ and “the chief agent of Satan is the antichrist.’’
“In this particular reading of apocalyptic prophecy, there’s a huge battle between good and evil,’’ said Berlet, whose group studies right-wing extremists. “Powerful, political elected officials . . . are conspiring with Satan to build a one-world government.’’
McQuade downplayed the role religious ideology played in the group’s alleged plans. Prosecutors have said the militia planned to make a false 911 call, kill responding police officers, and then detonate a bomb to kill many more officers at the funeral.
“What we were focused on here is their conduct, not on their religion,’’ McQuade said.
“And what they have talked about is being very antigovernment. They fear this ‘new world order,’ and they thought that it was their job to fight against government — the federal government, in particular.’’
The group was preparing to carry out an attack sometime in April, prosecutors said, after months of paramilitary training that began in 2008. Authorities seized guns in the raids but would not say whether they found explosives.
FBI officials see little chance the arrests will spur other anti-government extremists to launch attacks.
The agency issued a bulletin to police departments saying it had picked up other militia groups’ Internet chatter — including some that expressed sympathy for the suspects — but few signs of criminal copycats.