Gov. Whitmer kidnap plot suspects to go on trial in Jackson County




  • In US
  • 2022-10-03 12:57:49Z
  • By Detroit Free Press
Joseph Morrison, Paul Bellar and Pete Musico wait for their hearing to start in the courtroom of Judge Thomas Wilson at the Jackson County Circuit Court in Jackson on Feb.
Joseph Morrison, Paul Bellar and Pete Musico wait for their hearing to start in the courtroom of Judge Thomas Wilson at the Jackson County Circuit Court in Jackson on Feb.  

Three men accused of plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer from her northern Michigan vacation home in 2020 are headed to court in Jackson County this week in one of the nation's highest-profile domestic terror cases.

Jury selection, which experts say could be a key factor in the outcome, is expected to start Monday.

Pete Musico, 44; his son-in-law, Joseph Morrison, 28, both of Munith, and Paul Bellar, 23, of Milford, are charged with providing material support for terrorism, a felony punishable of up to 20 years, and additional felony charges of gang membership and illegal use of a firearm.

Their plan, prosecutors said, was part of a larger plan to start a civil war that they called the boogaloo.

The case, which is unfolding just as Whitmer seeks re-election, is expected to highlight threats of political violence and extremism, which the prosecution says were evident even before the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol; and also raise questions about the FBI, the use of informants and public trust in government.

Are the defendants, as the state alleges, members of a group bent on starting and committing violence and undermining democracy? Or were they disaffected, disillusioned individuals who got together, said some unsavory, implausible things, and were set up by law enforcement?

For months, undercover FBI agents and informants were embedded among groups that the government said trained in Wisconsin and Michigan and made trips to scope out the governor's property.

Investigators secretly recorded conversations about Whitmer and other public officials who were denounced as tyrants, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when businesses were shut down, people were ordered to stay home and schools were closed.

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Two men, Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks, pleaded guilty in federal court in Grand Rapids, and testified against four others. Two men were acquitted. And in August, two others, who the government said were the ringleaders, Barry Croft and Adam Fox, were convicted.

In Antrim County, twins Michael and William Null, who are 40, and of Plainwell and Shelbyville, respectively; Shawn Fix, 40, of Belleville; Brian Higgins, 53, of Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin; and Eric Molitor, 38, of Cadillac - also are accused of providing material support for terrorism, and related gun charges.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact Frank Witsil: 313-222-5022 or fwitsil@freepress.com.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Gov. Whitmer kidnap plot suspects to go on trial in Jackson County

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