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Government pursing conspiracy charges despite no 'specific plan'

Despite admitting that seven members of a Michigan militia did not have a "specific plan" to commit a crime, federal prosecutors claimed in court on March 26 that the defendants' conspiracy trial should continue. The arguments were part of an unusual move by the trial judge to hold a day of hearings before determining whether to dismiss the charges against the defendants. The case against one defendant in particular appears especially uncertain as it is not clear she actively joined the alleged conspiracy.

A defense motion to dismiss the case after the prosecution has completed presenting evidence is not unusual, but in this case the U.S. District Court judge appears to be giving the motion serious consideration. She sent the jury home for the day to hear arguments from both sides over whether the defendants' conversations about wanting to kill local police officers in order to bring attention from federal agents.

Both sides agree that the defendants never went beyond vague ideas in their conversations, some of which were secretly recorded by an undercover FBI agent. The U.S. attorney arguing the government's case admitted that the defendants did not have a "specific plan" to kill any police officers, but insisted that the content of the recordings still amounted to a conspiracy against the government. The seven were arrested in March 2010 without any attack being carried out.

One of the defendants is the wife of the leader of the militia. Her voice occasionally can be heard on the tapes, but defense attorneys say nothing in the conversations establish her as a part of any plot.

The hearing came after the conspiracy trial had been underway since Feb. 13. News reports about the case do not say when the judge expected to rule on the motion to dismiss.

Source: Washington Post, "Prosecutors in Mich. militia trial: Charges should stick despite no specific plan to attack US," March 26, 2012

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