TRIAL OPENS 2 YEARS AFTER FEDS BREAK UP MILITIA: DETROIT (AP) — Seven members of a Midwest militia accused of plotting to overthrow the government are set to stand trial, where jurors will decide whether federal authorities prevented an attack by homegrown extremists or simply made too much of the boasts by weekend warriors who had pledged to "take our nation back."
Opening statements are set for Monday once a jury is seated in the trial of members of the Hutaree militia, who are charged with conspiring to commit sedition, or rebellion, as well as weapon crimes.
Following the March 2010 arrests in southern Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said the time had come for authorities to "take them down." An undercover agent had recorded the group's leader, David Stone, saying the militia needed to "start huntin'" police soon.
But since their capture, only one of nine people charged has struck a plea deal, an unusually low number in a case with so many defendants. Their attorneys have maintained a consistent stance: The anti-government talk was simply colorful yet aimless bluster akin to frustrated pals drowning sorrows around a campfire.
"I'm going to fight it tooth and nail," David Stone's wife and co-defendant Tina Mae Stone said during a break in jury selection last week. "It was just a bunch of good ol' boys out to have fun. We did survival stuff. I did it mostly to spend time with my husband. People tell me, 'good luck.' I don't need luck. I've got God on my side."
NJ MAN WHO SHOT OFF-DUTY OFFICER MUST PAY $5.9M: TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — An off-duty New Jersey county sheriff's officer who was shot and seriously wounded when he tried to intervene in a domestic dispute has won a $5.9 million civil judgment against the gunman.
A judge recently awarded the money to Joshua Hahn and his wife after Billy Heisler — who was convicted last month on attempted murder and weapons charges — failed to respond to the suit.
The 34-year-old Mercer County Sheriff's officer suffered two punctured lungs and a shattered vertebra when he tried to break up a fight between Heisler and his sister at a Hamilton Township pizzeria in July 2007. Hahn eventually had to retire on permanent disability.
Hahn was awarded $963,871 in lost wages; $1.5 million for pain and suffering and $2.5 million in punitive damages. Hahn's wife was awarded $1 million,
WHITE HOUSE: MATTER OF TIME BEFORE ASSAD FALLS: WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's chief of staff says it's only a matter of time before the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad collapses.
Jacob Lew says the U.S. and its allies have brought "serious financial pressure" on Syria and that Assad's government is "feeling it."
While the violence continues as rebels try to topple Assad, Lew says the transition "from tyranny to democracy is very hard." Lew says the Syrian people "have to handle this in a way that works in Syria."
Lew tells "Fox News Sunday" that "the brutality of the Assad regime is unacceptable and has to end." He says the U.S. is pursuing "all avenues that we can" and that "there is no question that this regime will come to an end. The only question is when."
RI PLAYER WINS $336 MILLION POWERBALL JACKPOT: PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Lottery officials say someone who played the Powerball in Rhode Island has won the $336.4 million jackpot.
The new multimillionaire has not stepped forward and the lottery has not said where the winning ticket was sold. To win, the player had to match all of Saturday's five numbers, 1-10-37-52-57, and Powerball number 11.
Powerball is played in 42 states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
MAN TO FACE ALABAMA TRIAL IN WIFE'S DIVING DEATH: BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A dream honeymoon to scuba dive on Australia's Great Barrier Reef turned into a terrible nightmare, and the horror is about to play out years later in a courtroom in Alabama.
An Alabama man who already served prison time in Australia after pleading guilty to a reduced charge in the death of his bride goes to trial Monday, accused of murdering her for insurance money. Tina Thomas Watson drowned during a scuba dive on the reef just days after her wedding in October 2003.
Gabe Watson is charged with capital murder — which normally is punishable by death — but faces life in prison without parole if convicted because of a deal the state made years ago with Australian officials to guarantee his return to the U.S.
Watson, 34, and Tina met in college. They wed and went to Australia to dive — a trip prosecutors claim Watson meticulously planned so he could kill the 26-year-old woman and make it seem like an accident.
Watson is accused of killing Tina Watson by turning off her air supply and bear-hugging her as she drowned while diving on a shipwreck in 2003. Don Valeska, an assistant state attorney general handling the case, argues Watson killed the woman believing he could collect on a modest life insurance policy.
Originally charged with murder in Australia, Watson avoided a jury trial there by pleading to a charge of manslaughter and serving 18 months for not doing enough to save his wife. He was an experienced diver; she was a novice.
The defense will argue during the trial that Tina Watson's death was an unintended, horrible mishap. One of Watson's lawyers said the man — who is free on bond and has remarried — was anxious to get the trial started.
DEADLINE NEARS, OBAMA WANTS PAYROLL TAX CUT ACTION: WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is pressuring Congress to extend a payroll tax cut for the rest of the year as another deadline nears for Congress to act or see taxes go up for millions of working people.
Lawmakers agreed in December, after much bickering, on a two-month extension, but that runs out at the end of this month. Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday that Congress "needs to stop this middle-class tax hike from happening. Period. No drama. No delay."
Obama said the economic recovery must not be jeopardized by a failure to stop payroll taxes from rising, and he urged listeners to add their voices.
TOP REPUBLICAN WANTS VOTE ON BIRTH CONTROL MANDATE: WASHINGTON (AP) — Conservatives said Sunday the flap surrounding President Barack Obama's birth control mandate was far from over, with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell saying he'll push to overturn the requirement because it was another example of government meddling.
While a senior White House official shrugged off such remarks, declaring the issue resolved and new legislation unlikely, the heated rhetoric from Republicans suggested the GOP would try to keep the debate alive in an election year to rally conservatives and seize upon voter frustration with big government.