Last 3 Defendants Not Guilty in Michigan Gov Kidnap Plot

They were acquitted of providing support for terrorist acts in plan to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 7, 2022 6:35 PM CST
Updated Sep 15, 2023 10:30 AM CDT
Judge Orders Trial for 5 Men in 'Conspiracy' Against Whitmer
This booking photo provided by the Antrim County, Mich., Sheriff's Office shows Michael Null.   (Antrim County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)
UPDATE Sep 15, 2023 10:30 AM CDT

A jury acquitted three men Friday in the last trial connected to a 2020 plan to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. William Null, twin brother Michael Null, and Eric Molitor were found not guilty of providing support for a terrorist act and a weapon charge, the AP reports. They were the last of 14 men to face charges in state or federal court. Nine others have been convicted. They were accused of supporting leaders of the plan by participating in military-style drills and traveling to see Whitmer's vacation home in northern Michigan. Molitor, 39, and William Null, 41, testified in their own defense, admitting they had attended gun drills and taken rides to check out Whitmer's property. But William Null said he and his brother broke away when talk turned to getting explosives.

Dec 7, 2022 6:35 PM CST

Five men were turned over for trial Wednesday on charges involving a foiled plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Michael Null, William Null, Eric Molitor, and Shawn Fix, all from Michigan, are accused of providing material support for terrorist acts as well as a gun crime. Brian Higgins of Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, was charged with providing material support for terrorist acts. District Judge Michael Stepka ruled that evidence presented in a preliminary hearing justified a trial in Antrim County, where Whitmer's Elk Rapids vacation home is located and prosecutors say the abduction was to happen. Prosecutors say four of the defendants scouted the house and surroundings, and there was talk of blowing up a bridge to keep police from responding.

"They knew what they were doing," Stepka said as he summarized testimony and exhibits from the hearing. "They were all involved in the plot to kidnap the governor." He added later, "In my mind, there is clearly a criminal conspiracy here." After his ruling, Stepka entered not-guilty pleas on the defendants' behalf. The trial will be conducted in circuit court. No date was set, but a pretrial conference was scheduled for Dec. 19. The judge's decision "sends a clear message that acts of domestic terrorism will not be tolerated," Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said. "Those who threaten our law enforcement agents and public officials endanger our entire state and must be held accountable." Fourteen people were arrested in October 2020 and charged with backing the scheme—six in federal court, eight in state courts.

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FBI agent Hank Impola testified during the hearing in August that some participants were members of self-styled militia groups favoring violent rebellion known as the "boogaloo." Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr., described as ringleaders, were convicted of conspiracy in federal court on Aug. 23. Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks earlier pleaded guilty, while Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta were acquitted at trial in April. In a related state case, Joe Morrison, his father-in-law Pete Musico, and Paul Bellar were found guilty in October of supplying material support for a terrorist act as members of a group known as the Wolverine Watchmen. The Null brothers, Higgins, and Molitor joined trips to inspect Whitmer's house from outside, while Fix helped them find it, according to evidence presented at the state hearing. All five joined meetings and paramilitary training sessions at which the plot was discussed, the Michigan attorney general's office said in a court filing.

(More Gretchen Whitmer kidnapping plot stories.)

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