In Hutaree trial, defense says key witness given special treatment

From the Detroit Free Press.


Defense lawyers in the Hutaree militia trial are dragging Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy into the terror case, claiming she gave the government’s key witness special treatment in a domestic assault case at the request of the federal government.

That witness, Dan Murray, a confidential informant who infiltrated the group for 19 months, was charged in state court with two felonies for shooting at his wife in February 2010.

The shooting happened about one month before the FBI arrested nine Huratee members in separate raids and charged them with plotting a violent overthrow of the government that involved killing a police officer and bombing a funeral.

Defense lawyers argued in court today that Murray, who ended up getting probation in the assault case and having the two felonies dismissed, got special treatment in state court because the federal government intervened on his behalf.

“It’s almost unheard of to have a felony firearm charge dismissed,” argued Michael Rataj, who is representing Tina Stone, wife of the accused Hutaree ringleader David Stone Sr. He said he plans to subpoena Worthy in the federal terror case. “We’ll be calling Kym Worthy.”

Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Maria Miller, Worthy’s spokesperson, said she is reviewing the matter, and would comment later.

Defense lawyers are hoping to discredit Murray’s testimony, and use the state charges against him to bolster the following argument: the only reason the FBI arrested the Hutaree members when they did, they claim, was because the agency’s lead witness was “spiraling out of control.”

Murray’s credibility came into question after FBI Special Agent Leslie Larsen testified about the role Murray played in helping the FBI investigate the group and ultimately arrest nine members.

In court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sheldon Light said he knew of no agreement between the U.S. Attorney’s office and Worthy’s office to give Murray any favorable treatment because he was an informant in the Hutaree case. And had he known of any such agreement, he said, he would have told the defense lawyers about it.

According to Larsen’s testimony, Murray spent between 300 and 400 hours working undercover for the FBI, attending Hutaree meetings and trainings, and secretly recording numerous conversations with the members. For his work, he was paid $30,677, of which roughly $5,500 covered expenses such as gas, cell phone bills, and equipment.

Murray’s last training with the Hutaree was in January 2010, Larsen testified. By then, an undercover FBI agent had been inserted into the group, so Murray was pulled out of the operation, she testified, adding it’s a common practice to remove a confidential informant once an actual agent has moved in.

“I felt that it was time to remove the source,” Larsen testified.

When Light asked her if she ever felt that Murray was “falling apart,” or “imploding,” – as the defense had claimed – Larsen responded no.

Larsen noted that the FBI had hired Murray once before to investigate another militia, the Southeastern Michigan Volunteer Militia. But after spending a year with the group, he found “nothing suspicious” to report, so no charges were brought, she testified.

That’s not what happened when he met and spent time with the Hutaree group, Larsen testified.

“He did say Hutaree was suspicious,” Larsen testified, saying several Hutaree videos raised some red flags for the FBI.

Among the images that caught the FBI’s attention, Larsen testified, were images of what appeared to be improvised explosive devices, or roadside bombs, going off in the woods, men lined up in military gear shooting large amounts of bullets, either around vehicles, or in closed-quarter drills where the militia members look like they’re entering rooms and shooting at targets.

Such shooting exercises are different than those used by other militias, Larsen testified, saying that other militias use targets like paper plates to shoot at, not elaborate drills that appeared in the Hutaree videos.

The defense lawyers will cross examine Larsen tomorrow.

The defense has long argued that the government has no case, claiming the defendants were engaged in tough talk, which is a free speech issue, and that they never had any real plans to harm anyone. The prosecution counters it has evidence that the defendants had a plan, were heavily armed and ready to do great harm.

Nine people were originally charged in the case.

In December, the government secured its first guilty plea from Joshua Clough, 29, for­merly of Blissfield Town­ship, who pleaded guilty to using a firearm during a crime. As part of his plea, he admitted he was in fact a Huta­ree member, and that one of the group’s goals was to use explosive bombs against law enforce­ment offi­cers.

A ninth defen­dant, Jacob Ward, has been de­clared incom­pe­tent to stand trial and could face his own trial at a later date.

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