JUSTICE: Militia members convicted in violent kidnapping plot of MI Governor
Three men who belong to a right-wing militia involved in the plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer over Covid-19 mandates have been found guilty of all charges on Wednesday. After a two-week trial, a Jackson, Michigan jury returned the verdict – including gang membership, firearm violations, and “providing material support for terrorism” – after only a day of deliberations.
Whitmer praised the jury’s decision, saying in a statement the verdicts were “further proof” that violence has no place in politics.
“This trial is another stark reminder that we must take an honest look at the state of our politics. Politically motivated plots, threats, and violence are increasingly common against public officials as well as everyday citizens. They are the logical, disturbing extension of radicalization, hatred, and conspiratorial thinking that festers in America, threatening the foundation of our republic,” Whitmer said.
Facing up to 20 years in prison, 28-year-old Joseph Morrison, 44-year-old Pete Musico, and 23-year-old Paul Bellar were among over a dozen men charged in the kidnapping conspiracy.
“Morrison and Musico were accused of hosting tactical training sessions on their property in a remote part of Michigan. Bellar was accused of providing plans for tactical maneuvers, coded language for covert communication and ammunition,” Reuters reported.
In October 2020, less than a month before the November 3rd election, law enforcement arrested 13 people, including seven members of the Wolverine Watchman militia, which sparked a national conversation about domestic terrorism and the purpose of these private, loosely organized paramilitary organizations, The Detroit Free Press reported.
According to Reuters:
“Prosecutors said Morrison, Musico, and Bellar were members of a militia group called the Wolverine Watchmen. The group planned to break into the governor’s vacation home, kidnap her and take her at gunpoint to stand “trial” on treason charges, they said.”
Defense attorneys for the militia members claimed that their clients weren’t aware of a kidnapping plot and that the men’s actions are provided by the Constitution.
Federal prosecutors – and subsequently the jury – disagreed.
In a shocking act of domestic terrorism, Morrison, his father-in-law Musico, and Bellar hoped to ignite a civil war.
“The conspirators hoped that an abduction would lead to a violent uprising and instigate a civil war, prosecutors said. Morrison and Musico were accused of hosting tactical training sessions on their property in a remote part of Michigan. Bellar was accused of providing plans for tactical maneuvers, coded language for covert communication and ammunition,” Reuters wrote.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) condemned the domestic terrorists’ actions, saying it represented a “disturbing increase in anti-government rhetoric,” and she condemned the reemergence of groups that embrace “extremist ideologies” and seek to “seize on civil unrest to promote armed resistance.”
Wolverine Watchmen founders, Morrison and Musico, shared a house in Munith, Michigan, and talked of “taking out a sitting governor.” Upset at Whitmer’s strict coronavirus lockdown policy, the men planned to recruit members, and referred to the Democratic governor as a “tyrant b**ch.”
The battle against extremism hasn’t always gone smoothly. In August, fellow Watchmen members Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. were found guilty in the plot – after the first trial ended in a hung jury.
However, today’s guilty verdict is proving that actions do have consequences. Hopefully, this will make those inciting violence think twice before attempting to undermine the authority of those they don’t agree with, and stoke grievance, hate, and fear.
“I don’t care who you voted for,” state Assistant Attorney General Bill Rollstin told the jury. “But to target, our governor would be an incredibly destabilizing event in our state. What they had planned would have rocked this nation.”
Whitmer is up for re-election in November.
Original reporting by Tyler Clifford at Reuters, and at Jack Nissen at Fox 2 Detroit.
Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick
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