DETROIT -

United States attorney Barbara McQuade is defending the decision to pursue charges against members of the Hutaree militia.

"Sometimes we're going to win and sometimes we’re going to lose, but we can’t be afraid to take on the hard case," McQaude said.

The final defendants, David Stone Sr. and his son Joshua Stone, pleaded guilty Thursday morning to a charge of possessing a machine gun. On Tuesday Judge Victoria Roberts threw out more serious conspiracy charges against all seven defendants. They see the ruling as a vindication of free speech rights. McQuade says the case went far beyond that.

"There was evidence at trial of stockpiling weapons including machine guns, 150,000 rounds of ammunition, building bombs, targeting specific police officers and developing what they called a kill list," she said.

McQuade was appointed two months before Hutaree members were arrested in March 2010. She says agents had to take down the group because they believed it was on the verge of carrying out a violent attack.

"Imagine on the day before he blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City, we caught Timothy McVeigh with a truckload of fuel and fertilizer and you had him on tape saying he was going to blow up the federal building. Do you wait until he strikes the match? Do you wait until he blows up the building? I say no."

David and Joshua Stone will be sentenced in August. Their attorneys hope the punishment will be limited to the two years they’ve already been in custody. McQuade wants additional prison time.

"As a consequence of those convictions they can never possess firearms again. That’s important," she said. "It gives me some ounce of gratification, but certainly I’m disappointed with the results of the more serious charges."

McQuade said the dismissal of conspiracy charges "does not shake our commitment to dismantling groups who would harm our citizens and law enforcement officers, and these efforts will continue."

-- David Stone Sr.