May 29, 2023 10:07 pm

Gretchen Whitmer: Three men convicted for supporting kidnap plot

Three men have been convicted for supporting a plot to kidnap the governor of the US state of Michigan.

A jury found Joseph Morrison, 28, his father-in-law Pete Musico, 44, and Paul Bellar, 23, guilty of gang membership, firearms violations and providing material to support terrorism.

The militiamen face up to 20 years in prison.

They are among 13 men who were arrested in October 2020 for the plot to kidnap Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Prosecutors said the men, who are members of a militia group called the Wolverine Watchmen, targeted Ms Whitmer because of the Covid-19 restrictions she imposed early in the pandemic.

They planned to take her at gunpoint to stand “trial” on treason charges and hoped the abduction would start an uprising and a civil war, according to prosecutors.

The group held gun drills in rural Michigan with a leader of the plot, Adam Fox, 39, who was found guilty earlier this year of planning to abduct Ms Whitmer from her holiday home.

Lawyers representing the three men convicted on Wednesday had argued that they were not aware of the plan and had broken ties with Fox in the summer of 2020.

They also said the men’s actions were protected by the First and Second Amendments of the US Constitution, which relate to free speech and gun rights respectively.

Prosecutors, however, argued that the “gang was mobilising” and was “ready for action”.

During the trial, jurors were shown evidence that the Wolverine Watchmen group were involved with the boogaloo movement, an anti-government, leaderless organisation that espouses armed conflict with authorities.

Judge Thomas Wilson ordered the three men to jail while they await sentencing on 15 December.

The case is seen as the most prominent involving domestic terrorism in recent years. In total, five men have been convicted in relation to the kidnapping plot.

These include Fox and Barry Croft Jr, 46, who were found guilty of a kidnapping conspiracy in August. The two men face life in prison.

Following those convictions, Ms Whitmer, who is running for re-election in November, said they showed “violence and threats have no place” in US politics.

“Plots against public officials and threats to the FBI are a disturbing extension of radicalised domestic terrorism that festers in our nation,” she said.

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