Court Battles

Three men convicted of supporting Whitmer kidnapping plot

Paul Bellar, middle, appears before Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wilson on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022 for trial in Jackson, Mich. Paul Bellar, Joseph Morrison and Pete Musico are charged in connection with a 2020 anti-government plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. (J. Scott Park/Jackson Citizen Patriot via AP, Pool)

Three men were convicted on Wednesday of all charges against them over supporting a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) in 2020. 

The jury found Joe Morrison, his father-in-law Pete Musico and Paul Bellar guilty of providing material support for terrorist acts, gang membership and carrying or possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony. 

The men are members of the Wolverine Watchman, a far-right paramilitary group. Several others arrested in connection with the plot were also members of the group. 

A jury previously convicted two men, Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr., of conspiring to kidnap Whitmer in August. Another jury was unable to reach an unanimous conclusion on Fox and Croft and acquitted two other defendants. 

The Associated Press reported that Morrison, Musico and Bellar held gun drills in a rural county with Fox, who led the plot and despised Whitmer. 

Prosecutors argued the men were hoping to incite a civil war with the kidnapping. 

Whitmer was ultimately not harmed, and the men were arrested before the plot could be set into motion. FBI informants and agents infiltrated the plan early on. 

FBI Special Agent Mara Schneider, a spokesperson for the FBI’s Detroit field office, said in a release from the Michigan attorney general’s office that the defendants believed violence was an appropriate way to address ideological grievances. 

“Today’s verdict sends a clear message they were wrong,” Schneider said. “Violence is never the answer, and the FBI remains committed to investigating and holding accountable anyone who seeks to further an ideological cause through violence.” 

The defense argued that the three men cut off their ties with Fox before the Whitmer plot developed and noted that they did not travel to northern Michigan to overlook Whitmer’s home or participate in a weekend training session inside a “shoot house,” according to AP. 

The three men are scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 15 and will remain in jail while they await sentencing.

Tags Gretchen Whitmer Gretchen Whitmer providing material support Whitmer kidnapping plot Whitmer kidnapping plot Wolverine Watchman
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