Trial of Militia Member Begins
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) _ A militia group accused of conspiring to blow up federal buildings and attack federal officials was tipped off to an impending government raid by a sheriff’s officer, a witness testified today.
The testimony came on the second day of Bradford Metcalf’s trial on charges of conspiracy to possess automatic weapons and threatening to assault federal officials.
In court today, Robert Stumpenhaus, an agent of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, testified that a Calhoun County Sheriff’s Department lieutenant alerted the militia that a government raid might be imminent. He did not immediately say if that was the raid on Metcalf’s property.
Federal prosecutors found out about Lt. Michael Discher after Carter began cooperating with the government.
``He said Lt. Discher basically let them know of any police investigations or actions pending against them,″ Stumpenhaus testified.
Calhoun County Sheriff Al Byam said today was the first time he had heard the specific allegations against Discher, who he estimated had been with the department for more than 15 years.
``We take this very seriously,″ Byam said. But he said he needed more specific information before taking any action against Discher. He said Discher had already been demoted for reasons unrelated to the militia allegations.
Authorities seized thousands of rounds of ammunition, as well as loaded semiautomatic weapons, during a raid on Metcalf’s property earlier this year.
Metcalf, 46, described as a member of the North American Militia of Southwest Michigan, maintains the weapons were for his personal enjoyment and that he did nothing wrong.
One of his two co-defendants, Ken Carter, 47, of Battle Creek, is expected to testify against Metcalf in return for a more lenient sentence. The second, Randy Graham, 41, of Springfield, goes on trial next year on similar charges.
Security for the trial was tight; spectators were required to go through an extra metal detector and a bomb-sniffing dog was taken through the courthouse.
In testimony on Tuesday, another militia member who is not charged in this case told jurors that ``anybody in higher ranks of politics was considered a target″ of the militia, as were the Battle Creek federal building and IRS office in Portage.
Brandon Blasz said the names of U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and state Sen. Dale Shugars came up frequently.
Blasz, 34, is serving a three-year federal prison term for making pipe bombs.