Hammond man retrieves seized property from FBI, government officials

2012-07-06T19:00:00Z 2013-04-18T21:39:22Z Hammond man retrieves seized property from FBI, government officialsBy Lindsay Machak lindsay.machak@nwi.com, (219) 933-3246 nwitimes.com

HAMMOND | It took a visibly agitated Thomas Piatek more than two hours to retrieve his belongings from federal officials Friday.

"They should have brought this back to my house," the Hammond resident said. "I shouldn't have to do this."

Thomas Piatek was one of several alleged members of the Michigan militia, an organization that was accused in March 2010 of plotting against the government and charged with conspiring to commit sedition, or rebellion, as well as using weapons of mass destruction and other serious crimes.

A federal judge in Michigan dismissed the charges against Piatek and six other defendants in March, noting that hatred for law enforcement doesn't amount to conspiracy.

A moving truck on Friday stacked with thousands of rounds of ammunition, more than 40 guns and other weapons was parked in the Hammond Police Department's parking lot when Piatek came to collect his belongings.

But the guns, ammo and camouflaged clothing weren't what concerned the Hammond man.

"I want my three German shepherds back," he said.

The dogs also were taken when Piatek was arrested and his property was seized.

Piatek said he suspects the three dogs, Clouse, Auto and Tammy were taken to a local animal shelter and then adopted.

"This never should have happened," he said.

Piatek's tense attitude was apparent as he confronted one of the investigators who had worked on his case.

"I've shown great restraint in this whole situation," he said. "It's almost like losing a football game and then saying, 'Now go shake hands.'"

Stan Piatek watched as his brother sifted through the belongings making sure it was all there.

"Things turned out well for us in the long run," Stan Piatek said. "We're just grateful he's out, and this is all coming to an end."

Stan Piatek, 56, of Naperville, helped to ease his brother's frustration.

"I don't know how he can get those two years back, if ever," he said. "But we are very proud of him and how he's handled this. We're very proud."

Court documents alleged Piatek and the members of the liberal group had discussed and trained for a violent attack against the government that would be sparked by the slaying of a police officer.

No attack of the sort took place and the group was arrested and put through the federal court system.

Piatek's attorney, Arthur Weiss, said the dismissal of the charges is a win for First Amendment rights.

"This was a victory for the Constitution," he said.

Weiss wouldn't discuss whether a civil suit would be brought against the government for wrongful imprisonment.

But Piatek hinted at something being in the works.

"Two years I've been locked up," he said. "It is not over."

And as he loaded the back of his truck with rifle after rifle, he shook his head at how they had been packed in tattered evidence boxes.

"My rights have been violated left and right," he said. "But whatever."

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