Jury clears 3 men in latest trial linked to plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

In the latest trial, the jury heard 14 days of testimony in Antrim County, where Whitmer’s lakefront property is located, 187 miles (297 kilometers) north of the state Capitol.

There were gasps in the courtroom as the jury foreman announced the verdicts, first for each brother, then for Molitor. Deliberations began Thursday morning and lasted a few more hours Friday. The men cried as they hugged their lawyers and supporters.

“You gentlemen are free to go,” Judge Charles Hamlyn said.

Outside the courthouse, a juror approached Molitor and “told him he was really sorry for everything he had gone through,” defense attorney William Barnett told the ‘Associated Press. “The man shook his hand and gave him a hug.”

Barnett said jurors privately told the judge that the evidence simply did not constitute “material support” for a kidnapping plot, a key phrase in the prosecution’s case.

“They went after three people’s lives and destroyed them for three years,” Barnett said of the attorney general’s office. “I’m just at a loss for words. It’s an emotional moment.

Authorities said an attack on Whitmer began simmering during a regional summit of anti-government extremists in Dublin, Ohio, in the summer of 2020. Fox, Croft and William Null were present while an FBI informant also inside the gathering was secretly recording crude tirades. threats of violence against public officials.

Disgust was also fueled by government restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to recordings, text messages and social media posts presented as evidence at trial.

Jurors repeatedly saw images of the Null brothers and Molitor carrying guns and “equipped” with bulletproof vests during protests at the state Capitol and elsewhere in 2020, although there were no there is nothing illegal in these actions.

Whitmer’s chief of staff, JoAnne Huls, said Friday’s verdicts were disappointing and would “further encourage and embolden radical extremists who attempt to sow discord and harm public officials or law enforcement.” .

State Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a written statement that “the verdicts are not what we hoped for.” His spokesperson did not respond to a request for an interview with Nessel.

Molitor, 39, and William Null, 41, testified in their own defense, admitting that they attended gun drills and took walks to tour Whitmer’s property. Molitor was in a van with Fox and had recorded a brief video of the house.

But William Null said he and his brother became estranged when discussions turned to obtaining explosives. Molitor said Fox was “incredibly stupid” and would not carry out a kidnapping.

During closing arguments Wednesday, prosecutor William Rollstin urged jurors not to be swayed.

“If you assist in whole or even in part, you have satisfied that element” of the crime, he said. “Was he helping her plan?” Was he helping her prepare? The answer is absolutely.

Michael Null, 41, did not testify and his lawyer took the unusual step of refusing to question witnesses during the trial. Tom Siver told jurors that Michael Null did nothing wrong.

“A stroke of genius,” Barnett said of Siver’s strategy of silence.

Informants and undercover FBI agents were inside the group for months before the arrests were made in October 2020. Whitmer was not physically harmed.

Nine men have already been found guilty in state or federal court, either through guilty pleas or in three other trials. Shawn Fix and Brian Higgins pleaded guilty in Antrim County and agreed to cooperate, but were never called as prosecution witnesses in the latest trial.

Patrick Miles, a former U.S. attorney in west Michigan, said the results were “mixed” for prosecutors with five acquittals in state or federal court.

“I still think these were legitimate cases that needed to be brought,” Miles said. “It’s very dangerous for our democracy when there are these kinds of threats related to planning, training and intrigue.”

After the plot was foiled, Whitmer blamed then-President Donald Trump, saying he had “comforted those who spread fear, hatred and division.” Away from office, Trump called the 2022 kidnapping plan a “fake deal.”


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