Indiana Militia: We're Not Like Hutaree

Groups say charged men preached dangerous message

Sunday, Apr 4, 2010  |  Updated 4:00 PM CDT
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Michigan State Police stand guard on Tomer Street in Clayton, Mich. on Sunday afternoon March 28, 2010 after an FBI raid of a home of a suspected militia leader. The FBI said Sunday that agents conducted weekend raids in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio and arrested at least three people. (AP Photo/Madalyn Ruggiero)

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William Flatt wasn't surprised when he heard about the FBI raid on members of Hutaree, the Christian militia members accused of plotting to kill police officers.

"We had a strong suspicion that groups like this would be getting some rather substantial bad press fairly quickly," the downstate Ingalls man said.

Flatt is a founder and member of the Indiana Militia, one of several militia groups across the country. Unlike Hutaree, which claims on its Web site that members don't believe in any "man-made group," most militias form with the intent to uphold the U.S. Constitution.

One of the Hutaree affiliates accused is Hammond truck driver Thomas Piatek, 46. The FBI reported recovering 46 guns, two .50-caliber rifles, 13,000 rounds of ammunition, and other boxes whose contents had not been inventoried from his home.

The nine defendants have been denied bail in federal court, and have been charged with plotting to levy war against the United States government, attempting to use weapons of mass destruction and other crimes.

Legitimate militias, as Flatt calls them, have strict rules that prevent members from using any kind of force unless as a last resort, he said.

"The whole militia movement is supposed to be a goal-line defense against tyranny," Flatt said. "If all else fails, the people still have the means to shoehorn (the government) back into the constitutional mold."

Militias often try to work with police departments in cases such as search-and-rescue missions, Flatt said. He said any attempt to kill a police officer without just cause would be abhorrent.

Jeff Foust, who lives in South Bend and is leader of the Northwest Indiana section of the state militia, said he is skeptical about the charges against the Hutaree members. The indictment claims they had a plan to kill a police officer and then kill more at the funeral.

"The charges they're putting out there, it only ends one way," he said. "You might as well put yourself in the Alamo; nobody wants to do that."

When members of the Indiana Militia first came across Hutaree, Flatt said, they realized the group was not part of the rest of the militia movement.

"They had made statements that indicated that they were not what we're about," he said. They had indicated they were looking to foment unrest.

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