On Wednesday, a Michigan jury convicted guilty three individuals accused of helping a scheme to abduct Governor Gretchen Whitmer in 2020. According to prosecutors, the motive behind the plot was animosity for the governor’s repressive response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Jurors found defendants Joseph Morrison, 28, Pete Musico, 44, and Paul Bellar, 23, guilty of gang membership, firearm offenses, and material support for terrorism.
On December 15, they will be sentenced, and each could receive a maximum of 20 years in prison.
They were three of over a dozen men arrested in October of 2020 on state and federal charges relating to the plot. Prosecutors claim the conspirators intended to break into Whitmer’s vacation house, abduct her, and then take her to a fictitious court for “trial” on treason charges.
Morrison, Musico, and Bellar are among the seven defendants who have either been found guilty by a jury or pleaded guilty to their involvement in the conspiracy.
Whitmer, a Democrat who is running for re-election in November, said after the verdicts that she was not discouraged by the evidence provided in the case, which showed the rise of political militancy in the United States in recent years.
In a tweet, she vowed that “no danger, no conspiracy, no rhetoric” could shake her faith in the “goodness and decency of our people.” The jury’s decision “further proves that violence and threats have no place in our politics,” the judge added.
Following two weeks of testimony in Jackson County Circuit Court, a verdict was reached in favor of state prosecutors who had contended that the men on trial assisted two others who had been found guilty in August in federal court of coordinating the kidnapping scheme.
The defense maintained that their client was innocent and that their conduct were protected by the First and Second Amendments to the United States Constitution since they were not part of a plot to abduct the governor.
All public lawyers representing the defendants expressed disappointment with the ruling and stated they would recommend an appeal.
A request for comment from the prosecution on the verdicts went unanswered for some time.
Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. were convicted in an earlier trial for planning to abduct Whitmer from her vacation home. After an earlier trial this year ended in a hung jury, a second trial was held, and the jury found them guilty; two other defendants were found not guilty.
According to the prosecution, the conspirators expected an abduction to spark a violent rebellion and a civil war.
Morrison and Musico were blamed for allegedly organizing tactical training sessions on their property in a rural area of Michigan. Bellar was accused of giving the rebels access to secret communication codes, battlefield strategies, and weapons.
According to the prosecution, all three of them were part of a militia known as the Wolverine Watchmen.
Ty Garbin, another suspected conspirator, pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme in September, and as a result, a federal judge lowered his sentence for having testified against the other two defendants, Fox and Croft. further reading
In addition to Fox and Croft, Kaleb Franks, who pled guilty to his involvement in the conspiracy, was sentenced to four years in jail earlier this month for his role as a critical witness.