A judge ordered Monday that nine jailed members of a Michigan militia be released, saying there's no risk to the public if they go home while awaiting trial on charges of trying to plot war against the government.
U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts overturned the April 2 decision of a federal magistrate judge and questioned the strength of the government's case. She said all nine can be released with electronic monitoring devices and other strict conditions.
The government says the members of a southern Michigan militia called Hutaree are radicals who planned to kill police officers and more. They were charged in March with conspiracy to commit sedition and attempted use of weapons of mass destruction.
Defense lawyers, however, say it's just a case of irrational, hateful speech.
The judge said prosecutors failed to show that jail was the only way to protect the public and ensure that the nine return for court hearings.
Roberts heard nearly 10 hours of testimony and argument over two days last week as militia members appealed the earlier detention order.
"Discussions about killing local law enforcement officers -- and even discussions about killing members of the judicial branch of government -- do not translate to conspiring to overthrow, or levy way against, the United States government," the judge said Monday.
Last week, Roberts had ordered the government to present an investigator who is familiar with the case, but FBI agent Leslie Larsen didn't reveal much from the witness stand.
Larsen, the lead agent, said weapons seized last month were still being examined. At other times, she couldn't answer questions because she hadn't lately reviewed investigative reports.
An undercover agent secretly recorded militia leader David Stone and others talking about killing police. But no specific names or dates were mentioned, and the conversations were sprinkled with laughs and a mix of subjects, such as strippers and drawing Hitler mustaches on photos of state troopers.