A former U.S. Marine rifle expert and veteran of the 1991 Persian Gulf War supplied the extremist Christian Hutaree militia with a "hit list" of federal judges and elected officials and served as the group's "heavy gunner" who was responsible for providing a "significant volume of firepower" against designated law-enforcement targets, according to a court document released by federal prosecutors.
In a new court filing, federal prosecutors for the first time portray the former Marine, Michael David Meeks, 40, as a key figure in the Michigan-based Hutaree's alleged conspiracy to trigger an "uprising" against the U.S. government by plotting to assassinate law-enforcement officers with improvised explosive devices.
Meeks, the prosecutors allege, used his four years of U.S. military training to become a member of the Hutaree's "inner circle" and participated in "military-style training exercises" with the group on a dozen occasions between October 2008 and February of this year.
The new allegations about Meeks, who earned a combat medal for his wartime service, are likely to fuel growing concerns that some former members of the U.S. military are using their backgrounds in firearms and combat tactics to assist extremist groups like the Hutaree and other "hate" and white-supremacist groups that appear to be proliferating. As NEWSWEEK reported this weekend, two indicted members of the Hutaree, Meeks and U.S. Army veteran Kristopher T. Sickles, both had professional military training.
Mark Satawa, Meeks's lawyer, today dismissed the government's latest allegation as lacking any proof and compared the allegations to a post-9/11 Islamic "sleeper cell" case in Detroit that was later tossed out by a federal judge for alleged prosecutorial misconduct.
"My client adamantly denies any involvement in any group that was actively plotting violent acts against the U.S. government or any local government," Satawa said.
The concerns about extremist militia members with U.S. military ties is especially high among law-enforcement officials right now as they nervously await next week's 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing that was committed by another Persian Gulf war vet, Timothy McVeigh.
Government prosecutors allege, in a motion to deny the defendant bond, that Meeks (much like McVeigh) was filled with a seemingly deep-seated hatred of the U.S. government and elected public officials such as the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.
During one June 13, 2009, training session by the Hutaree, which involved instructions and demonstrations in the use of trip-wired and command-detonated destructive devices, Meeks suggested blowing up a bridge across the Raisin River near Adrian, Mich., when the war begins and "the enemy comes," the motion states.
At the same session, according to prosecutors, Meeks also stated with regard to the U.S. judicial system: "We gotta ... start over, man. We gotta get rid of the judicial system ... everybody. They need to die." He also talked about "caping" [sic] a member of law enforcement and stealing the officer's weapons and made a threatening comment about Senator Kennedy.
At another training session in August 2009, the prosecutors alleged, Meeks claimed to have obtained 1,000 tracer rounds for his AR-15 assault weapon. And at yet another training session, they allege, Meeks provided the group a document which listed the names of federal judges, representatives, and other elected officials and which another Hutaree member called a "ready-made hit list of government officials."
Federal prosecutors unveiled the new allegations against Meeks after Satawa, his lawyer, filed a motion to release him from jail, with bond, to the custody of his parents. The motion by Satawa noted that Meeks had only a "minor criminal record" (a misdemeanor drunk-driving charge dating from 1997), had "honorably served his country in the U.S. Marines, including combat service in Desert Storm," and was "gainfully employed as a truck driver" for a scrap- metal company.
But prosecutors opposed any bond for Meeks, alleging that he presented a "serious danger" to the community and had taken active steps to prepare for a long-running "violent conflict with law enforcement."
These steps included "stockpiling food and other supplies" and "preparing bunkers and other means of concealing these supplies." In addition, the prosecutors allege, a search of Meeks's home after his arrest revealed a stockpile of military-style Meals-Ready-to-Eat, as well as "over a dozen firearms, several knifes, a large cache of ammunition, high-volume magazines, cold-weather-survival gear, night-vision goggles and gas masks." Prosecutors had previously said in a court hearing that Meeks also had a plaque at his home that said, "Remember Waco"—a reference to the Texas cult's compound that was burned to the ground by the FBI in 1993, an event that later became a cause célèbre for militia and other antigovernment groups. The firearms, ammo, and other items suggest that Meeks "has demonstrated a ‘survivalist' mentality and poses a flight risk," the prosecutors said in the new filing.