Two acquitted Mich. militia members charge FBI violated their rights

Two members of a Michigan militia group acquitted last year of conspiring to overthrow the U.S. government and kill police officers have accused FBI and Michigan State Police officials in a lawsuit of violating their constitutional rights when they raided their homes and seized their weapons.

Michael D. Meeks, 40, of Manchester, Mich., and Thomas W. Piatek, 46, of Whiting, Ind., members of the Hutaree militia, brought the suit March 27 in U.S. District Court in Detroit, naming as co-plaintiffs Mr. Meeks‘ parents, Eugene and Sylvia, and his sister, Gabrielle Neely.

The suit seeks at least $25,000 in damages for each of its 16 counts, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The Hutaree militia movement group adheres to the ideology of the Christian Patriot movement, and is based near Adrian, Mich. The group was formed in early 2006. Members think the U.S. government is led by the Antichrist, whom they believe to be President Obama.

The FBI declined to comment on the lawsuit. A spokesman for the Michigan State Police could not be reached for comment.

Three FBI agents and a Michigan State Police officer are named in the lawsuit as defendants for their role in raiding the homes of the Hutaree members and their family members. The suit alleges a “reckless disregard for the rights” of the plaintiffs, claiming that the agents violated the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches, when they raided the homes.

The lawsuit also claims the agents violated the Second Amendment right to bear arms when they confiscated a large quantity of guns and ammunition from Hutaree members. Agents seized 41 guns — including an AK47 semi-automatic assault rifle, rifles, handguns and shotguns — and 100,000 rounds of ammunition from Mr. Piatek’s home. The lawsuit also says due-process rights were violated.

It also says the defendants “were damaged as a result of the unlawful search of their home … the door to the home was damaged, lawful personal property was seized … they suffered emotional distress, anxiety, and mental anguish.”

Mr. Meeks and Mr. Piatek were among seven militia members who faced up to life in prison after being accused of plotting to kill law enforcement officers with bombs and guns.

In March 2012, a federal judge threw out the case, saying there wasn’t enough evidence.

In a 28-page decision, U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts said, “The evidence is not sufficient … to find that defendants came to a concrete agreement to forcibly oppose the authority of the government of the United States as charged in the indictment.

“The court is aware that protected speech and mere words can be sufficient to show a conspiracy. In this case, however, they do not rise to that level,” the judge said, adding that “diatribes” against the government by militia members that were recorded by the FBI “is not the same as seditious conspiracy.”

Mr. Meeks was elected constable of Bridgewater Township, Mich., in November. He ran unopposed as a Republican and received 631 votes.

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