Opening statements set to begin in final trial over alleged plot to kidnap Michigan's governor
Three men are facing trial in Antrim County, Michigan.
Opening statements are set to begin Wednesday in the final trial involving the alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Eric Molitor and brothers William Null and Michael Null were among the 14 men charged in state and federal court over the alleged plan to kidnap the governor at her vacation home in Antrim County in 2020, largely over the Democratic governor's strict COVID-19 shutdowns.
Molitor, 39, and the Null brothers, both 41, are the last among the group to face trial. The three pleaded not guilty to state charges of providing material support for terrorist acts and illegally possessing firearms. Opening statements are scheduled to begin in rural Antrim County following two days of jury selection.
The men were linked to the militia group the Wolverine Watchmen, prosecutors said. They were arrested in October 2020 after a member of the group turned into a confidential FBI informant once talk turned to harming law enforcement and public officials, according to prosecutors. Whitmer was unharmed.
So far, nine of the militia members have been convicted in state or federal court in connection with the alleged plot, while two have been acquitted.
Pete Musico, Joseph Morrison and Paul Bellar were found guilty by a jury in Jackson County of providing material support for a terrorist act, the most serious charge, as well as firearms charges and membership in a gang and given yearslong state prison sentences in December.
Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. were found guilty of federal conspiracy charges in a retrial last year after a previous trial ended in a hung jury. They both received double-digit sentences.
Kaleb Franks and Ty Garbin pleaded guilty to lesser charges last year and agreed to testify in the federal case against Fox and Croft. Franks was sentenced to four years in prison, while Garbin was sentenced to 30 months.
Brian Higgins and Shawn Fix each pleaded guilty to reduced state charges earlier this year in Antrim County and have agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. Both have yet to be sentenced.
A jury found two of the members -- Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta -- not guilty of federal conspiracy charges during a trial last year.
In a statement released following that verdict, Whitmer's office said the alleged plot was "the result of violent, divisive rhetoric that is all too common across our country."
"There must be accountability and consequences for those who commit heinous crimes. Without accountability, extremists will be emboldened," her office said in the statement.
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