Three men accused of supporting a plot to kidnap Michigan’s governor were convicted of all charges Wednesday, a victory for state prosecutors after the FBI and federal courts butchered the case.
Joe Morrison, his father-in-law Pete Musicologists, and Paul Gellar were all found guilty of supplying “material support” for a terrorist act as a member of a group known as the Wolverine Watchmen.
They held gun drills in rural Jackson County with a leader of the kidnapping scheme, Adam Fox, who was disgusted with Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer and other officials and said he wanted to snatch her.
The trial in the state court was different than the main case in federal court, which produced mixed results. Conspiracy convictions for Fox and three others but two other acquittals as it turned out many involved were undercover FBI agents.
Jurors in Jackson, Michigan, read and heard violent, anti-government screed as well as support for the “boogaloo,” a civil war that might be triggered by a shocking abduction.
Prosecutors said Covid-19 restrictions ordered by Whitmer turned out to be fruit to recruit more people to the Watchman.
“The facts drip out slowly,” state Assistant Attorney General Bill Rollstin told the jury, “and you begin to see — wow — there were things that happened that people knew about. … When you see how close Adam Fox got to the governor, you can see how a very bad event was thwarted.”
Morrison, 28, Musico, 44, and Bellar, 24, were also convicted of a gun crime and membership in a gang. Prosecutors said the Wolverine Watchmen was a criminal enterprise.
Judge Thomas Wilson ordered all three to jail while they await sentencing on Dec. 15.
The verdicts “are further proof that violence and threats have no place in our politics,” said Whitmer, who has not participated as a trial witness or spectator in the state or federal cases. “Those who seek to sow discord by pursuing violent plots will be held accountable under the law.”
Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat in a tight race for reelection, hailed the outcome and praised law enforcement.
“Terrorist attacks and mass shootings are not spontaneous events. They are the result of planning, plotting and amassing resources in a buildup to violent acts,” she said.
Defense attorneys argued that Morrison, Musico and Bellar had broken ties with Fox by late summer 2020 when the Whitmer plot came into focus. Unlike Fox and others, they didn’t travel to northern Michigan to scout the governor’s vacation home or participate in a key weekend training session inside a “shoot house.”
“In this country you are allowed to talk the talk, but you only get convicted if you walk the walk,” Musico’s attorney, Kareem Johnson, said in his closing remarks.
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