Judge orders 3 to trial in plot to kidnap Michigan governor
JACKSON, Mich. — A Michigan judge on Monday ordered three men to stand trial in a plot to kidnap Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer over her coronavirus restrictions.
Jackson County District Court Judge Michael Klaeren ruled there was enough evidence and bound over Paul Bellar, Joe Morrison and Pete Musico to circuit court to stand trial.
“The defendants are joined at the hip here,” Klaeren said before announcing his ruling. “The prosecution did a good job in establishing who knew what and when.”
Arguments were heard Monday by Klaeren about whether the men should face trial following three earlier days of testimony.
They are accused of aiding six other men who are charged in federal court with conspiring to kidnap Whitmer. Five more people are also charged in state courts.
The FBI in October said it broke up a plot to kidnap Whitmer by anti-government extremists upset over her coronavirus restrictions.
Klareen said there was enough evidence for trial on charges of providing material support for terrorist acts, gang membership and using a firearm during a felony.
Klaeren dismissed a charge of threat of terrorism against Musico and Morrison. Bellar didn’t face that charge.
The threat of terrorism, providing material support for terrorist acts and gang membership charges each are 20-year felonies. Felony firearm charges carry two-year maximum prison sentences.
According to a court affidavit, Musico and Morrison are founding members of the Wolverine Watchmen, which authorities described as “an anti-government, anti-law enforcement militia group.”
The Watchmen have met periodically for firearms and tactical training in remote areas “to prepare for the ‘boogaloo,’ a term referencing a violent uprising against the government or impending politically motivated civil war,” state police Det. Sgt. Michael Fink wrote in an affidavit.
Klaeren said Monday that Bellar, Musico and Morrison “individually and collectively wanted to precipitate the violence associated with ‘boogaloo.’”
“Pretty much from day one, it’s pretty clear the numbers of the Wolverine Watchmen believed in the ‘boogaloo,’ believed in civil war, believed it was coming,” the judge said.
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