Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center and Jackson County Sheriff’s Office via AP, File
Three men accused of supporting a plot to kidnap Michigan’s governor were found guilty on all charges on Wednesday, a triumph for state prosecutors after months of mixed results in the main case in federal court .
Joe Morrison, his father-in-law Pete Musico and Paul Bellar have been found guilty of providing “material support” to an act of terrorism as members of a paramilitary group, the Wolverine Watchmen.
They held gun drills in rural Jackson County with a ringleader of the scheme, Adam Fox, who was disgusted with Governor Gretchen Whitmer and other officials in 2020 and said he wanted the kidnap.
Jurors read and heard violent, anti-government screeds and support for the “boogaloo,” a civil war that could be sparked by a shocking kidnapping. Prosecutors said the COVID-19 restrictions ordered by Whitmer proved helpful in recruiting more people for the Watchmen.
“The facts are slowly flowing,” Assistant State Attorney General Bill Rollstin told jurors in Jackson, Michigan, “and you start to see – wow – there have been things that have happened. produced that people were aware of. … When you see how close Adam Fox came to being governor, you can see how a very bad event was foiled.”
Morrison, 28, Musico, 44, and Bellar, 24, were also convicted of a felony with a firearm and gang membership. Prosecutors said the Wolverine Watchmen was a criminal enterprise.
J. Scott Park/Jackson Citizen Patriot via AP, pool, file
Morrison, who recently tested positive for COVID-19, and Musico watched the verdict via video away from the courtroom. Judge Thomas Wilson ordered all three to be jailed pending sentencing scheduled for December 15.
Defense attorneys argued that the three men severed ties with Fox in late summer 2020 when Whitmer’s plot came to fruition. Unlike Fox and others, they didn’t travel to northern Michigan to scout the governor’s vacation home or participate in a key weekend practice session at a “shooting house.”
“In this country you are allowed to speak, but you are only convicted if you walk on foot,” Musico’s attorney Kareem Johnson said in his closing remarks.
Defense attorneys could not plead entrapment. But they attacked the tactics of Dan Chappel, an army veteran and undercover informant. He took instructions from FBI agents, secretly recorded conversations, and produced a deep cache of messages exchanged with the men.
Whitmer, a Democrat seeking re-election on Nov. 8, was never physically injured. Undercover agents and informants were inside Fox’s group for months. The scheme was halted with 14 arrests in October 2020.
Fox and Barry Croft Jr. were convicted of a kidnapping conspiracy in federal court in August. Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta were acquitted last spring. Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks pleaded guilty.