Tags: gretchenwhitmer | kidnapping | plot | court | trial

Judge Rejects Threat of Terrorism Charge for 3 Accused in Whitmer Plot

gretchen whitmer smiles and speaks
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer  in 2020 in Southfield,m Michigan. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

By    |   Monday, 29 March 2021 05:57 PM

A Michigan judge on Monday dismissed charges of threat of terrorism against three of the men accused of plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, though they will still face trial on other felony charges, The Detroit News reports.

Judge Michael Klaeren of the12th District Court on Monday dismissed the charges of false report or threat of terrorism against Munith residents Joseph Morrison and Pete Musico while declining to add it to the charges faced by Milford resident Paul Bellar.

Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement that the state plans to "explore all options for reconsideration of the charge moving forward."

The three men will go on to face trial on charges of gang membership, felony firearm and providing material support to terrorism. They are among seven with alleged ties to the militia group Wolverine Watchmen who are accused of plotting to kidnap Whitmer, who face a combined 19 felony charges. The others are Eric Molitor of Cadillac, Shawn Fix of Belleville, William Null of Shelbyville and Michael Null of Plainwell.

An attorney for Bellar, Andrew Kirkpatrick, argued in court on Monday that his client began training for a “potential civil war” following the widespread protests against law enforcement across the country in the past year.

“He got into this because 2020 has been like no other," Kirkpatrick said. "People were concerned. They were concerned about what may happen in their hometown. There was training.”

Klaeren ruled that because the group’s discussions took place in encrypted chats that are not accessible by the general public, it "in many respects no different than thinking the thought to yourself."


The judge said, “It’s not going to be blabbed to the outside world. I’m not minimizing any of the defendants or any of their cohorts; they’re all people, I understand that — but the person must be receiving a threat of terrorism. If it’s not going to get out to the public, how can one take the position that it is designed to create mayhem?”

Klaeren said, "There has to be some form of intent here to incite mayhem.”

He added, "One does not need to participate in all acts of a conspiracy. One does not even need to know all the co-conspirators."

The judge also remarked that the group had a "multi-tiered vetting process, secret means of communication, required training and exclusive membership,” and asked, “why all the secrecy,” noting that this is a reason as to why the charge of gang membership cannot be dismissed even though the charge of threat of terrorism was.

Klaeren also determined that the fact that the plan never came to fruition is not “fatal” to the argument to support the charge of material support for terrorism.

"Even something stupid can be a plan," he said. 

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A Michigan judge on Monday dismissed charges of threat of terrorism against three of the men accused of plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, though they will still face trial on other felony charges, The Detroit News reports....
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2021-57-29
Monday, 29 March 2021 05:57 PM
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