Left: Paul Bellar, Joseph Morrison, and Pete Musico (Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center and Jackson County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)
Three men are accused of supporting a plot to kidnap Michigan's Governor Gretchen Whitmer. As of Wednesday, all charges were final in conviction after months of multiple mixed results in federal court.
These three individuals are known to be a part of a terrorist act and participate as members of a paramilitary group called, the Wolverine Watchmen. Participants are identified as 28-year-old Joe Morrison, 44-year-old Pete Musico, and 24-year-old Paul Bellar who were found guilty of providing material support to this group.
Adam Fox, the man behind the scenes and the mastermind who used to hold gun drills in the rural side of Jackson County said In 2020, "He was disgusted with Gov. Whitmer" from that movement onwards he wanted to kidnap her.
As evidence continued to prevail during this case jurors would not only read but hear violent and anti-government screeds in regard to the “boogaloo,” a violent uprising that can be triggered by a surprising abduction. Prosecutors said while COVID-19 restrictions were placed by Whitmer, it turned out to be an alternative method to recruit more people for the Watchmen.
Morrison, Musico, and Bellar were also convicted of a gun crime and membership in a gang. Prosecutors described the Wolverine Watchmen as a criminal enterprise.
Morrison recently tested positive for COVID-19, and Musico viewed the verdicts by video away from the courtroom. Judge Thomas Wilson ordered all three to jail to await sentencing on December 15.
Defense solicitors argued, on behalf of the persecutors, that ties were broken with Fox in late summer 2020 when the plot towards Whitmer came into focus. Unlike other colleagues, Fox did not travel to northern Michigan to scout the governor’s vacation home nor participate in the weekend training session “shoot house.”
Musico’s attorney, Kareem Johnson, ended in his closing remarks, “In this country, you are allowed to talk the talk, but you only get convicted if you walk the walk.”
Defense lawyers couldn’t argue embroilment, rather they questioned the tactics of Dan Chappel: an Army veteran and undercover informant. Chappel would take on instructions from FBI agents, discreetly record conversations and produce a cache of messages exchanged between the men.
The undercover agents and informants were inside Fox’s group for months, but once the scheme was broken up there were 14 arrests in October 2020. Fox and Barry Croft Jr. were convicted in August for kidnapping conspiracy in federal court. Other participants like Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta had been acquitted last spring. Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks pleaded guilty.
Out of the 14 men, five are facing charges in the state court in Antrim County, near Whitmer’s second home. As for Whitmer, she was never physically harmed but is looking forward to reelection on November 8.
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