Tip about militia member Mark Koernke led to Hutaree investigation, court filing says
The FBI formally opened an investigation into the Hutaree militia in 2008 after two people claimed Webster Township militia member Mark Koernke was one of two leaders of the group, according to a court filing Friday by Todd Shanker of the Federal Defender Office.
That information "has proven to be utterly false," the filing says.
In addition, 20 months after the probe was launched, "the same agent that authored the investigation-opening report could offer nothing new regarding criminal behavior," the filing says.
Shanker, who is representing Hutaree member David Brian Stone Jr., is appealing an order by U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul J. Komives to deny a request for a Vinson-Enright hearing — a pretrial hearing during which the government must prove a conspiracy existed and the defendants were part of it.
Nine members of Hutaree are awaiting trial after being indicted in March on charges including seditious conspiracy. Among the allegations is that Hutaree members planned to kill a law enforcement officer and attack the funeral procession motorcade with homemade bombs.
According to Shanker's filing, the investigation began on Sept. 30, 2008 after a confidential informant, along with a member of the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia, identified Mark Koernke and David Stone Sr. as the leaders of Hutaree. Stone was charged in the case, but Koernke was not.
The filing mentions an FBI report on that date that describes Koernke as "a notorious 'anti-government conspiracy' theorist with prior convictions for assault of a police officer, resisting arrest and fleeing police, for which he served just over seven years in prison."
The report concludes by saying Stone Sr., Koernke and "yet to be indentified members of the Hutaree are possibly taking steps to commit criminal acts or conspiring to harm the United States government," the filing says.
According to the filing, David Brian Stone, Jr. "never said an unkind word about anyone" on many hours of secret tapes recorded by confidential informants and two undercover agents.
The only action the government could attribute to Stone Jr. was "setting off fireworks at the command of his father during a training session to avoid trip-wires in June of 2009 — over nine months before the arrests," the filing claims.
"There is not a shred of evidence that David Stone Jr. knew of any plan to use weapons of mass destruction against local police officers, let alone that he agreed to such a plan," the filing says.
Federal prosecutors had previously argued in a court filing that a Vinson-Enright hearing was not only premature, but would be “burdensome, time-consuming and uneconomic.”
U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts will review Shanker's filing and has various options. She can overrule the magistrate and order a full Vinson-Enright hearing, affirm the magistrate's decision and deny the hearing or reverse the magistrate's order in part and order a more limited Vinson-Enright hearing.
Shanker is still waiting a decision on a separate motion to dismiss seven of eight charges against his client.
Lee Higgins covers crime and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached by phone at (734) 623-2527 and e-mail at email@example.com.