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Feds Raid Radical Christian Group

Apparently I missed the part where Jesus said “Do onto others as you would like done unto you, except for, you know, if you want to blow them up with IEDs.”

The indictment unsealed in U.S. District Court today claims that the Hutaree planned to kill an unidentified member of local law enforcement and then attack the law enforcement officers who gather in Michigan for the funeral. According to the plan, the Hutaree would attack law enforcement vehicles during the funeral procession with improvised explosive devices rigged with projectiles, which constitute weapons of mass destruction, according to the announcement by U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade.

Good work on the part of the FBI and US Attorneys. The last thing we need is groups like this running around blowing up cops at a time when a the political situation is a bit on edge, and the media is only too happy to smear the views of ordinary peaceable Americans with this extremist nonsense.

UPDATE: There seems to be some question about being charged with WMD violations. It’s not uncommon in law to define something that has a common and generally accepted definition as something different for the purpose of a specific statute. WMD is defined in the United States Code’s anti-terrorism laws as including destructive devices. It does not change that definition for ordinary criminal possession of an unregistered destructive device, but only for a destructive device someone “uses, threatens, or attempts or conspires to use” against any person or property within the United States, and having some nexus to interstate or foreign commerce.

The reason the US Attorney will use the anti-terrorism laws is because you have up to the possibility of a life sentence (death sentence if you actually kill someone) under these laws, as opposed to having an unregistered DD, which will only get you ten years. Given the circumstances, I think the US Attorney is correct in using the anti-terrorism statutes.

53 Responses to “Feds Raid Radical Christian Group”

  1. Ed says:

    Totally agree with Sebastian on this one, but…does this mean we found WMDs in Iraq? I mean, they sure as hell had IEDs over there, and since an IED is a WMD according to the Obama administration, doesn’t that mean Iraq had WMDs all along?

  2. Seriously. It’s good that they put a stop to this, but what justifies WMD classification instead of destructive device?

  3. Sebastian says:

    The definition of WMD in the law they are charged under is looser than the generally accepted definition. It’s a common thing in law to do this. PA’s Uniform Firearms Act, for instance, defines a “firearm” as anything with a barrel shorter than 16 inches for a rifle and 18″ for a shotgun.

  4. Jay T says:

    I agree about groups running around going crazy. But what if the indictment is a lie? Is it still a good job? During several high profile cases over the past twenty years it has become apparent after the fact that the charges were bogus or less than accurate.

    Don’t get me wrong. If this group indeed planned to kill LEO’s the best thing that could have happened was a raid on them. Before handing out the good jobs though we should wait and see what comes of it.

    This is very early in a long process. They are innocent until proven guilty. We can’t protect the 2nd amendment if we fail to uphold other rights as well.

    If this group is wrong they should pay the price. Until it is adjudicated we don’t know.

    God bless our Law Enforcement Officers who have to deal with threats every day.

  5. Sebastian says:

    But what if the indictment is a lie?

    If it’s a federal indictment, they convinced a jury of citizens there was enough evidence to hand down a bill. That’s also what a jury trial is for.

  6. Mulligan says:

    so… they are under arrest for suspicion of the future murder of someone? and the future murder of his friends?

    I was under the impression you actually had to DO something before you got arrested for it.

  7. Sebastian says:

    There’s a conspiracy element to the offense, Mulligan. That usually true of all laws. If it’s illegal to do something, it’s also illegal to enter into a conspiracy to do do something. Conspiracy does not typically require you actually following through.

  8. Wolfwood says:

    Interesting that the Threepers have been roundly condemning the Hutaree as nutcases. As Mike Vanderboegh noted, the Hutaree are pretty much the low-hanging fruit: probably-harmless radicals likely to catch major news attention.

    It’ll be interesting to see the nature of the threatened action. Was it serious, or was it some fantasy where the members took the planning too far? Early reports said that it was a threat against Muslims, but this report doesn’t seem to say anything about that (and seeing as one of the Hutaree reportedly contact a MM leader “of Islamic descent” (whatever that is), that’s confusing).

    My own ignorant speculation: they’ll get prosecuted for any weapons charges, but the conspiracy charges will go away. They’ll all do 1-7 years in prison, with some of the less-involved ones getting heavy probation instead. This is assuming none of them goes out of their way to anger the judge/jury and that nothing else comes up.

  9. Sebastian says:

    Depends on how strong the evidence is of a conspiracy. Looks like this was also a case of a disgruntled ex tipping off the feds. The evidence may be quite strong. For legal purposes, it doesn’t really matter much if they were playing out an elaborate fantasy or not.

  10. Wolfwood says:

    As to the conspiracy, the problem is that they’re alleged to have done some scouting. You can play in fantasyland all day long and pretty much be fine legally, but once you take any step (especially a significant step like scouting), you’ve crossed over into the realm of criminal conspiracy.

    As to the indictment, any allegations that aren’t laughable on their face usually make it through the grand jury, as it’s basically the prosecutor just telling the GJ what evidence he thinks he has. He doesn’t have to actually have it, and there’s no right for the defendant to try and prove otherwise. If I said to a GJ “I have evidence that so-and-so is making pipe bombs and is trying to sell them on EBay in violation of whatever statues apply,” I suspect I’d get the indictment, even if not a single fact I’ve said might be provably so.

    IANAL(y), TINLA

  11. Jay T says:

    This group may well be guilty. That’s what a trial is for, correct?

    However, I pose the question again: If this indictment is found to be false will it still be a job well done?

    It’s important to answer because everyone is innocent until found guilty or do you see our system as different and if so could you explain why?

  12. Jay T says:

    Good work on the part of the FBI and US Attorneys.

    As the son of a law enforcement officer I am appalled at what this group has been charged with but as an America I am appalled at the above statement when you don’t have all of the information. If they gain a conviction or if they prevented mayhem, great job!. But this is one day after and you, nor any of us, don’t have enough information to praise anyone.

  13. Sebastian says:

    Well, depends on how you look at it. Not long ago they tried to serve a warrant on a radical Christian group and ended up burning the whole place down with children in it. So to some degree no dead children = good job. But if the US Attorney has a bad case, they will deserve to lose. The FBI’s job is to serve the warrants, collect the evidence, and arrest the suspects. If they can accomplish that without killing anybody, than it’s a good job.

    The outcome of the case rests more on the US Attorney. If the evidence is flimsy, it will be on him/her.

  14. Dave R. says:

    If it’s a federal indictment, they convinced a jury of citizens there was enough evidence to hand down a bill. That’s also what a jury trial is for.

    Yeah, cuz grand juries are known for their independence and skepticism. And the Feds have never exaggerated a charge for publicity or plea bargaining power. For myself, I’m reserving judgement until the trial ends.

    And I’m with the Baptist on the WMD thing. If an IED is a WMD, well, IEDs can be pretty damn primitive, maybe no more than a pipe bomb. And if a pipe bomb is a WMD, where does it stop? Unassembled components? Black powder and an empty coffee can? Bag of flour, box of kitchen matches and not denouncing an undercover provocateur strongly enough? “The definition of WMD in the law they are charged under is looser than the generally accepted definition.” …misses the point. Consistent, understandable to lay-people laws are a good and an end in themselves, a necessary feature of a free and stable society. Punishments roughly proportionate with malum in se criminality, not exaggerated for malum prohibitum defiance are themselves a good thing. Quoting a legal definition not only more precise but arguably at odds with plain English is exceedingly patronizing. The law is what some of us have reservations about, not out of ignorance but out of principle.

  15. Jay T says:

    The outcome of the case rests more on the US Attorney. If the evidence is flimsy, it will be on him/her.

    That’s why a judgment to rush and congratulate the feds, or to defend this militia group, is wrong. The process is important if we are to remain “America.”

    So to some degree no dead children = good job

    If that is how you judge law enforcement they won’t like it. If that’s how you judge competence most of the rest of us won’t like it.

    Law Enforcement is a tough job. They get it right the majority of the time. Not always but more often than not.

    I just don’t think we should attack or defend this development until all the facts are known.

    Ciao.

  16. Sebastian says:

    Don’t think about WMD in terms of what you think it means. Like I said, in statutory law it’s common to give something a different definition than the definition that’s common.

    But is the anti-terrorism statute too broad? That’s another thing. My feeling is probably not as applied to federal property or applied to areas specifically of federal interest, like protecting airlines, etc.

    But it could be used on a person who, say, blows up his wife with a pipe bomb, which strikes me as ordinary murder rather than terrorism. But one could argue there’s not sufficient nexus to Interstate Commerce there (though, there probably would be, realistically).

  17. Mulligan says:

    Conspiracy as a crime has a pretty broad scope. Planning & training to confront UNconstitutional search and seizure is very much similar to planning and training to confront constitutional search and seizure.

    Especially when the people in power blatantly disregard the nation’s governing doctrine.

    is not Congress guilty of conspiring to do things to us? Their immunity doesn’t extend to treason if I recall correctly. The Supreme Court saying its constitutional doesn’t make it constitutional. It makes the Supreme Court complicit.

  18. Sebastian says:

    Conspiracy isn’t anything new or uncommon in law though. It’s been part of common law for centuries.

    Treason has a very specific definition, and MOCs aren’t guilty of it just because they pass laws you don’t like. We have a remedy for that called elections.

  19. Mulligan says:

    Treason:
    –noun
    1.
    the offense of acting to overthrow one’s government.

    if you’re job is to pay attention to the constitution, isn’t ignoring the constitution (our government) treason ?

  20. Mulligan says:

    sorry.. your job.. not you’re job…. multitasking fail

  21. Sebastian says:

    Treason is the only crime defined in the Constitution:

    Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

    The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

    Congress can only punish it. They can’t define what it is. The constitution already does that.

  22. Sebastian says:

    I’ll tell you what, if a jury of their peers finds them not guilty, I’ll do a post saying the feds suck for bringing forward a bad case. But until then I still consider it good work that they’ve seemingly brought a radical and allegedly violent group to justice without any shots being fired or anyone being killed, and leave it at that.

    And yes, in this case “to justice” means to answer to a jury of their peers for crimes they stand accused of. That’s how the system works.

  23. Mulligan says:

    i’ll agree that there is a law making it a crime to do what they are accused of doing.

    my point is, if we are for freedom and liberty should there be a law making what they did a crime?

    They didn’t hurt anyone, They didn’t violate anyone’s property. They didn’t infringe anyone’s rights.

  24. Sebastian says:

    Plotting to kill police officers shouldn’t be illegal? Maybe not a federal crime. That’s debatable. But it’s definitely squarely within the state’s police powers.

  25. Mulligan says:

    isn’t forcing changes on our way of life, the same as levying war? War isn’t just armed strife. War is conflict of power.

  26. Sebastian says:

    No… they are not the same. War has a specific definition, and hinges on armed conflict.

  27. If it’s a federal indictment, they convinced a jury of citizens there was enough evidence to hand down a bill.

    Ditto Dave R. and Wolfwood. A good prosecutor can get a Grand Jury to indict a ham sandwich.

    I don’t really have a problem with getting these people on conspiracy. I don’t have a problem with getting them on weapons charges. And the Feds appear to have brought them in without a shot being fired, which is commendable.

    I do have a problem with the Feds being able to crank the criminal penalties for existing crimes up to 11 by adding terror, hate, or other buzzwords to them.

  28. Wolfwood says:

    Okay, it looks like there’s some argument over “what the law is and how to interpret it” versus “what the law should be.” I think the latter discussion is unprofitable here.

    At the moment, assuming the Feds aren’t making this all up as they go along (yes, yes, I know), everything looks pretty okay at this stage. It’s good that no one got hurt. It looks as though there’s a basis for each of these charges, and if all this evidence is admitted at court I’d expect that there will be convictions on each charge.

    Right now, we only know one side, which is to be expected. At trial, maybe it’ll turn out that they weren’t really pipe bombs, that some of the people arrested weren’t involved, or various other things that could cause the case to be lost (mishandling of the evidence by the police, incompetency by the prosecutor, crazy jury, etc.). For now, though, this looks legally okay.

    I strongly suspect that, politically, it’s designed to distract from Obamacare and unemployment, but that’s not really relevant to the legal side of it.

    IANAL(y), TINLA

  29. Sebastian says:

    I strongly suspect that, politically, it’s designed to distract from Obamacare and unemployment, but that’s not really relevant to the legal side of it.

    It wouldn’t surprise me either.

  30. Mulligan says:

    plotting to do anything is just thought and conversation

    killing a police officer, or anyone for that matter, without reason should be illegal.

    a strike or counterstrike against officials operating within the bounds of their constitutionally mandated power….. bad

    a strike or counterstrike against officials operating in league with treasonous enemies of the constitution … maybe not so bad

    given that there are dozens of stories out there about people being illegally detained and/or searched and their property confiscated, the idea of uniformed officials operating outside their legal boundaries is not an outlandish thing to prepare for.

  31. Sebastian says:

    I do have a problem with the Feds being able to crank the criminal penalties for existing crimes up to 11 by adding terror, hate, or other buzzwords to them.

    I don’t favor hate crimes, and I will agree the anti-terrorism statutes are way too broad. But as applied here, I don’t think the use is inappropriate.

  32. Wolfwood says:

    Mulligan,

    The problem here is that Hutaree is alleged to have done more than just think about attacking LEOs. If all they’d done was chat about it at meetings then, well, freedom of speech and all that. They could probably have even made a video about the assassination of Barack Obama and been fine (they could’ve called it “To Kill a President”). By going and taking a step toward the accomplishment of that, by scouting out locations, what they did is no longer just a thought crime. That act is actually a fairly significant one; it’s not as though they just bought gas for their cars and someone said “well, they’d need gassed-up cars in order to do their plan, so that’s a conspiracy.”

    Keep in mind that “he had it coming” isn’t a valid legal defense here. If they’d shot at LEOs raiding their house, they might be able to claim self-defense, but the threat here was not imminent (which in law, seems to mean “right-the-****-now” and not “soon, but who knows when?”).

    As for treason, I don’t think that’s going to stand up as a reasonable belief, especially if there haven’t been any convictions. If it’s a difference of interpretation, that’s not going to work; you’re going to need to have someone staying on past their end-date or actively aiding an enemy in wartime to really trigger this.

  33. Dave R. says:

    Don’t think about WMD in terms of what you think it means. Like I said, in statutory law it’s common to give something a different definition than the definition that’s common.

    Nope, still patronizing and unconvincing. I already comprehend what the law is, thank you. And I accept that laws may need to be more precise than conversational english. But when the legal definition is so severed from the common definition that we have to think of them independently, that’s a sign to me that we’re out of malum in se territory and into malum prohibitum. And that’s nothing that does or should command my respect*, whether from the government or from its apologists. (*Obedience, perhaps, and certainly when the penalties are too severe but the base crime is immoral, but never respect and affirmation.)

    It’s not the case that the legal definitions of terrorism and WMDs exist as an ideal of pure, just and objective law. The conversational definition and connotations of “terrorism” and “WMD” gave political cover to enacting the legal penalties we now have in place, which as you admit and celebrate are far more severe than for identical “destructive devices.” Those conversational meanings certainly are driving news coverage, headlines and public perception now. And they are very likely to play a role in any conviction and sentencing for terrorism or possessing “WMDs.”

    To me, that wide a gap between legal and common meaning is itself a problem in the law, and in our legislators, that ought to be fixed. The fact that someone can boast of understanding the real details of the law and explain them to the ignorant masses because the details of the law are divorced from plain meaning is itself objectionable. It is an insult against ordered liberty. It shows that the law in question has violated the principle of good governance that laws should be understandable to the general public.

  34. Sebastian says:

    Just on legal theory alone, ignoring whether how we define WMDs or terrorism, do you think possession of a destructive device with clear intent to use it to wage insurrection should be punished more harshly than possession of a destructive device as a curiosity? It seems there’s plenty of examples in common law that suggest that kind of thing isn’t all that unusual or new. Even in Blackstone, you find stuff like:

    The offense of riding or going armed, with dangerous or unusual weapons, is a crime against the public peace, by terrifying the good people of the land; and is particularly prohibited by the statute of Northampton, 2 Edw. III. c 3. upon pain and forfeiture of the arms and imprisonment during the king’s pleasure: in like manner as, by the laws of Solon, every Athenian was finable who walked about the city in armor.

    You also see in a number of jurisdiction possession of certain tools, which while not generally illegal, can become illegal if you’re found in possession of with intent to commit certain types of crime. In Pennsylvania, for instance, crowbars are not generally illegal, but if you’re caught with a crowbar and the police have some evidence you were plotting a burglary, they can charge you with possession of the object as a burglary tool.

    On the subject of whether the type of crime charged against these militants should be federal issues, I think there’s plenty of room for debate, and as I’ve said, I think the federal anti-terrorism statutes are overly broad in that respect. Though I’m not sure it’s overly broad as applied to the facts of this case.

  35. Mulligan says:

    my first thought (given the current info) is we’re probably better off with these folks off the street.

    my second thought is lets be careful here. We are not far from jumping on the Gov arresting radicals bandwagon.

    if we let the gov or the media (neither is a trustworthy or impartial group) define radical or extremist and then give them the power to apply it as they see fit, how long before it evolves. how long before it is being applied to ‘those people’ instead of someone guilty of a crime.

    how long before it can / will be applied to us?
    I don’t want to be in prison for hoarding food and weapons because I scouted out a high-water route to wal-mart in case of a flood.

  36. Sebastian says:

    There’s no federal law that gives the government the authority to arrest or investigate people for being “radicals.” You have to specifically break a law. Granted, these days it’s trivially easy to be an accidental felon, but that’s a separate issue.

  37. Wolfwood says:

    Mulligan,

    The difference is that scouting a path to Wal-Mart isn’t illegal, while murder is. You can make plans, including ones you make with other people, all day long and not be guilty of conspiracy. You can even make them in secret. You can carry out those plans, be it only a first step or the the completion of it in its entirety. It’s only when your plan is to do something illegal that criminal conspiracy comes into play.

    If the Hutaree had a plan in place to “kill any cop who commits treason,” this would probably be okay. I suspect that even “to kill Officer X if he commits treason” would be. Murder and ambush because of political actions are entirely different, especially if it’s not the same officer who did it.

  38. Wolfwood says:

    and, of course: IANAL(y), TINLA

  39. Ronnie says:

    Let’s see if the Obama bunch goes after the militant black panthers and other leftists next November for voter fraud and intimidation with the same vigor that they have had going after these militia types and the guy who wrote a poem on the internet about a sniper.

  40. Mulligan says:

    “It’s only when your plan is to do something illegal that criminal conspiracy comes into play. ”

    agreed.. but there is a grey area concerning unconstitutional laws and the blind obedience, ignorance or agenda of enforcement agencies.

    if you have a guy in uniform and a guy with a pipe bomb you can’t tell at first glance which is violating the constitution.

    waiting until the next election (and hoping there’s no voter fraud) doesn’t repair the door that got kicked in, or bring the dog back to life or console your family.

  41. David Fox says:

    Good work?!?! $10 says this went down like Randy Weaver, where an agent made friends with him, BEGGED him for 3 YEARS to make him a sawed-off shotgun and when, after BEING NAGGED for 3 years, he did it, para-military FBI/ATF swing in. I bet anything that’s what happened here – FBI put an informant in, he/she egged ’em on, they then started (maybe) doing something illegal, and after being provoked from the inside by a “secret agent” they’re arrested.

  42. Dave R. says:

    Just on legal theory alone, ignoring whether how we define WMDs or terrorism, do you think possession of a destructive device with clear intent to use it to wage insurrection should be punished more harshly than possession of a destructive device as a curiosity?

    Yes. But that’s a smokescreen. There never was an insurrection or intent loophole with destructive devices to begin with, before modern anti-terrorism laws. And that was never the base for my objections. You defended and endorsed the WMD charges in your main post and in comments. You stated that the US attorney was correct in using terrorism charges after speculating that those charges were used for their greater penalties for what are facially identical crimes. I’m saying that if rebellion, murder, possessing and especially using destructive devices, and conspiracy are illegal in their own right, a law that criminalizes them further or sets a lower bar to conviction under a different, scarier name, one whose legal definition is totally separated from its plain meaning, is bad law and not something to boast about and defend.

    There’s no federal law that gives the government the authority to arrest or investigate people for being “radicals.” You have to specifically break a law.

    Ah… If you think the government never investigates groups they consider radical without knowing of a crime first I don’t even know what to say. I’m burning work time so I won’t find citations but they’ve done that multiple times in recent history. Yes, they have to be able to claim, with a straight face, that you broke a law to arrest you. That’s not quite the same as “you have to specifically break a law.” But even if it was, that just makes the trivial ease of accidentally breaking a law highly relevant and connected, not a separate issue at all. There’s a claim that one third of Americans have broken a federal law of some kind even without knowing it. Add in the seriousness and infamy of being a terrorist and a “radical” (there’s a flexible term) and there may be little way out if you happen to get sucked into the system.

  43. Sebastian says:

    You read me correctly. I am defending the use of anti-terrorism statutes as applied here. The problem is they can be applied in many other cases that don’t amount to terrorism. The federal statutes are very broad, overly broad, in my view.

    But what these folks were allegedly planning would be squarely within Congress powers to suppress insurrection.

  44. Sigivald says:

    Jay: “Innocent until proven guilty” applies only to the State. There is not and never has been a “right to have the mass of people believe you’re innocent”.

    There’s a right to not be sent to prison without due process of law and proof beyond a reasonable doubt of guilt.

    Much like it’s perfectly reasonable that everyone believes Al Capone was guilty of a huge amount of crime, even if he was never proven guilty of anything but tax evasion.

  45. David Fox says:

    Insurrection? What insurrection? There was only talk of planning a crime, which did NOT happen! $10 says this was a Randy Weaver-type setup by a Fed agent pushing folks to talk about something illegal (sounds weird even saying that), just like the agent that begged Weaver to make a sawed-off shotgun for 3 years only to charge him with a crime after he obliged!

  46. Sebastian says:

    The feds claim it was more than talk. But either way, the feds use the common law definition of conspiracy which does not require any overt act. Planning to commit a crime is a crime too.

  47. Jay T says:

    But either way, the feds use the common law definition of conspiracy which does not require any overt act. Planning to commit a crime is a crime too.

    Understood. But tell me Sebastian, do you personally agree with the above? Let’s say your were swept up in a raid and accused of planning to commit a crime. You say you’re innocent. Should anyone believe you? After all to a lot of people, being pro-gun rights, you fit the bill of a bad guy. I’m not asking your legal opinion because I have that in spades. I’m asking your personal opinion because if it ever happens I want to know how I should post about you getting rounded up. Should I say “good job” or should I wait until more information is in before throwing it out there. On the left you will be seen as no different than the clowns who allegedly planned this whole episode. The only people who will kn ow are the people who really know you. Any wisdom on how you would like to be discussed?

  48. Sebastian says:

    People don’t get arrested on criminal conspiracy charges just based on accusation. There has to be evidence of a conspiracy, just like with any other crime. If I got swept up in some bogus conspiracy bust, or any other infamous crime, what other people are saying about me on some blog on the internet somewhere would be my last concern. Retaining competent counsel and preparing my legal defense would be what I’d be concerned about.

  49. Jay T says:

    People don’t get arrested on criminal conspiracy charges just based on accusation. There has to be evidence of a conspiracy, just like with any other crime.

    They don’t? Are you serious?

    If I got swept up in some bogus conspiracy bust, or any other infamous crime, what other people are saying about me on some blog on the internet somewhere would be my last concern. Retaining competent counsel and preparing my legal defense would be what I’d be concerned about.

    Good answer.

    Thank you for responding.

  50. nutz40 says:

    DOJ=doubtfulocccultjudgement. David Koresh did it. Another christian group with Hoder at DOJ, waco ruby ridge next thing will be anoither OK city… stop the madness. pray for peace.

  51. Dave R. says:

    Fox’s bet is still in play. An undercover federal agent was in fact involved.

    An undercover agent played a role in the investigation that led to Monday’s indictments. Grand jury testimony by a law enforcement officer referred to an “undercover FBI agent” who worked on the case. The FBI declined to comment, but infiltration is a common tactic for law-enforcement officials targeting domestic militia groups.
    -Wall Street Journal
    http://tinyurl.com/y85ayom

    The accused don’t come off as sympathetic in the article – but then, no-one ever does at this stage of the game. And barring serious over-reach by the Feds, it’s harder for an innocent man to escape the criminal justice system than our host gives credit for. Conviction rates normally top 90%. Grand juries are a formality and trial juries usually assume, as our host does, that anyone charged must have done something. Over-charging (as with, say, a crime bringing a life sentence) gives the accused a strong incentive to take a plea bargain rather than try to prove their innocence. (Tho actually I don’t expect that last to come into play here after the media circus unless they get someone to turn and testify against the rest.)

    Or they could really be guilty. That’s still a real possibility, just not something I’m willing to assume given past government lies and innuendo.

    But even then, the track record of federal informants raises the question of whether they’d ever have thought of or gotten around to the plot if not for the mole. Randy Weaver’s been mentioned. Less famously, the Viper militia for example, was apparently a law-abiding and not terribly motivated group of shooting buddies with a shoulder patch until an undercover agent made himself the driving force in the group and talked them into getting into unlicensed machine guns. And granted, they did commit a crime and shouldn’t be allowed to walk, but it’s still a cruel paradox. If a person can be talked into a criminal act, but never would have committed it or even been talked into it by anyone but a government agent immune from prosecution and paid for his acts, should the the government really be in the business of provocation?

  52. Wolfwood says:

    Dave R.

    Having worked as a prosecutor in the past, perhaps I can shed some light on the 90+% conviction rate. In short, it’s because the prosecutor controls the case: if he thinks the case sucks, he either nolle prosses it or is smart enough not to bring it to begin with. There are exceptions, such as politically-motivated cases and times when (especially in domestic violence cases) the witnesses don’t testify to what they told the police, but generally you only bring cases you’re of which you’re pretty confident.

    I can’t speak for all circumstances, but none of the defense attorneys I’ve dealt with have been willing to let their client plead to a crime they didn’t more-or-less commit* (and it would be unethical for them to advise their client to do so). None of the prosecutors with whom I’ve worked have piled up charges hoping to force an innocent man to plead guilty**, either, although it probably does happen. I can’t speak to juries…trying to predict what a jury will do is a complete exercise in futility.

    *Sometimes the defendant may not have committed the exact crime, but did something close enough (and sometimes the prosecution or court will offer alternative charges, such as “Trespassing” for “Possessing Marijuana” to avoid certain stigma). Ideally this wouldn’t happen, but law is an attempt to reconcile the ideal with the real.

    **Now, they might charge everything even remotely likely in an attempt to get the person to plead to what the prosecution believes the defendant did in the first place (such as multiple counts of a crime that may-or-may-not have been part of one larger occurrence), but they wouldn’t charge the defendant with something they knew he was innocent of.

    YMMV.

  53. Alpheus says:

    This entire situation gives me the willies, for two reasons:

    First, health care has just been rammed down our throats, and there is no end in sight for other things to be rammed down our throats as well…and this has made our government situation feel very tense, especially since the throat rammers are blaming the people for violence and hate, and are looking for every excuse to blame us…but also because any act of violence could easily lead to something drastic, such as martial law or civil war.

    Second, I just don’t trust our government. Were these guys *really* planning on committing violence? Or were they set up to make militias, and by extension, anyone who wants government to leave them alone, look like violent protesters itching to start a revolution?

    I remember Waco–I was in Junior High at the time, and I got my news from the televisions installed in the classrooms, and so I accepted what had happened as “the right thing to do”–but since then I’ve learned a lot more about what happened there, as well as what happened since. And I’ve learned about Ruby Ridge. And, as I read Jeff Cooper’s commentaries, put on a website somewhere, I learned that there were people who felt as I do now, only they felt that way as the events were unfolding.

    All this adds up to this: while I understand that there are people out there who are itching to do bad thing, or could be talked into doing bad things, I also understand that government can (and sometimes will) do bad things as well.

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