April 8, 2010

Probably the most chilling aspect of the recent bust of the Hutaree militia was the cold-blooded way they apparently contemplated attacking and killing law-enforcement officers.

A key to that plan was a fact that surfaced in the aftermath: Patriot movement folks are known to obsessively monitor law-enforcement broadcasts, and thus are tuned in to their movements and whereabouts.

And it's not just the Hutaree who do it. According to the Ann Arbor newspaper, a national militiamen's outfit was broadcasting local law enforcement radio communications during the FBI raids:

A militia radio station broadcast Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department radio communications as the FBI was still looking for at least one wanted Hutaree member, according to an e-mail circulated March 28 among sheriff’s department employees.

That prompted concerns among law enforcement officials who were in the midst of arresting members of a militia group accused of plotting to kill cops.

The e-mail, sent at about 10 a.m. March 28, says the FBI “called today to advise that www.militiaradio.com has started to broadcast our radio traffic.”

“Please take this into consideration as it is a serious officer safety concern,” the e-mail says.

The e-mail was circulated the morning after the FBI began raids on the Christian militia group in Washtenaw and Lenawee counties and in Ohio and Indiana. In Washtenaw County, five Hutaree members were arrested during a raid in the Ann Arbor area, and a Manchester Township home also was raided.

At the time the e-mail was circulated, FBI agents were still looking for 21-year-old Joshua Stone, who wasn't arrested until the following night in Hillsdale County. He was the last of nine people to be arrested during the raids.

Representatives at militiaradio.com could not be reached for comment Monday. The Internet radio station is registered to a web hosting company based in Utah. Local militia leader Mark Koernke of Dexter, who has a show on the station, also could not be reached for comment Monday.

Indeed, Koernke was one of the people leading the violent, paranoid chatter that immediately followed the raids.

It shouldn't surprise anyone, though, that Koernke is in the middle of this.

Back in the '90s, they called him "Mark From Michigan." This was when he was supplementing his job as a college janitor by moonlighting as a fearless leader of militias around the nation.

More to the point, he was one of the leaders in making radio -- especially shortwave -- a significant component of how militias organized. Koernke's shortwave program in the '90s was considered essential listening for the Patriot movement.

I still have a video of a speech he gave to a Militia of Montana audience in Spokane, Washington, in December 1994; I've collected some choice excerpts above. Considering that all this came before Oklahoma City, his insistence that his fellow "patriots" would eventually be "forced to fight" the New World Order seems rather chilling now.

The ADL has a lengthy file on Koernke:

Since the early 1990s, Mark Koernke - often referred to by his nickname, "Mark from Michigan" - has been one of the most effective propagandists for the "patriot" movement. Through a combination of shortwave radio broadcasts, widely distributed videotapes and personal appearances, the university maintenance worker has used his speaking skills to spread his message of "New World Order" conspiracy theories and resistance to governmental authority. Koernke was one of the leaders in the birth and growth of the militia movement and achieved widespread notoriety after being mistakenly linked to the Oklahoma City bombing. Since then he has suffered numerous setbacks - including prison - but still maintains a loyal cadre of supporters who hang on his words.

Especially amusing, perhaps, was the way it all came crashing down, ending in a prison term:

More seriously, Koernke was beset by legal problems stemming from his paranoia and tendency to overreact. At the fall 1997 trial of John Stephenson for the murder of William Gleason, Stephenson's defense subpoenaed Koernke; a Stephenson friend with whom Koernke had an acrimonious history served the subpoena. He claimed that, when he and a partner tried serving Koernke, Koernke hit him with a rifle. As a result, Koernke was arrested in November 1997 on a felony assault charge. When the trial convened in May 1988, Koernke chose to flee rather than defend himself.

Although a fugitive, Koernke hardly remained silent: he continued to broadcast on shortwave radio from a hidden location "in the boondocks." He and Stadtmiller were particularly strident, urging followers to ambush lone policemen in order to strip, then tar and feather them. In another show, Stadtmiller stated that he and Koernke "are going to stand and fight with whatever tools we have. Mark and I don't think that we are going to get out of this without firing a shot." According to a federal affidavit, Koernke also urged supporters to shoot an assistant United States attorney involved in prosecuting other Michigan militiamen.

In July, Koernke was captured. A state police helicopter searching for marijuana fields spotted a man and a woman near an abandoned home. When the helicopter descended for a closer look, the man - Koernke - ran away and dove into a nearby lake. Police on the ground, alerted by the helicopter, flushed him out. Having shaved his mustache and bleached his hair, he told police - in an Irish accent - that his name was Michael Kern; his fingerprints proved otherwise. Absconding (fleeing the law) was added to the charges, which led to an unusual circumstance; that fall, it was revealed that the process server may have vowed to lie on the stand, if necessary, to get Koernke convicted. Because the process server was the chief witness against Koernke in the assault case, prosecutors had to drop the charge and Koernke was only tried for absconding. In August 1999, Koernke was tried and convicted, but was only sentenced to time already served.

Six months later, Koernke got himself into trouble again. He was sitting in his car outside a bank that was being robbed in Dexter, Michigan, his hometown; when he drove away shortly after the robbery, a sheriff 's deputy, who thought Koernke might have robbed the bank, tried to stop his car. Rather than pull over, Koernke led police on a 40-mile chase during which he tried to ram a police car before wrecking his own. He also fought with officers trying to arrest him. The following year, Koernke was convicted of fleeing and eluding police, resisting arrest and assault with a dangerous weapon. In April 2001, he went to jail on a sentence of three to seven and a half years.

Koernke got out of prison in 2007 and returned to broadcasting; you can now hear him on Liberty Tree Radio and the Micro Effect. Not to mention, of course, Militia Radio.

Fittingly, Militia Radio published a post [warning: link to extremist site] -- by former Constitution Party presidential candidate Chuck Baldwin -- defending the Hutaree Militia and speculating that it was all a psy-ops setup.

Some things never change, do they?


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