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Defense wants case dismissed for three Jackson County men accused of plotting to kidnap Governor Whitmer

Posted at 7:30 AM, Mar 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-01 07:30:38-05

JACKSON, Mich. — Three men who were part of the Munith-based Wolverine Watchmen and are accused in the plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer were back in court.

Attorneys for Paul Bellar, Joseph Morrison and Pete Musico spent most of Monday examining an FBI informant who goes by the name of “Dan” to see if his actions influenced those of the northeastern Jackson County militia group.

Those three men among others are accused of plotting to kill police officers, attack the state capitol and kidnap Governor Whitmer.

Their attorneys are making an entrapment argument saying their clients were pressured by the FBI informant who said they did more than observe.

“They were actively training and doing everything,” defense attorney Nicholas Somberg representing Joseph Morrison said.

“I think they took advantage of these guys who weren’t educated, didn’t have the money, were upset with the government and concocted this plot and pushed this whole thing forward and then blamed these three defendants here for providing material support to a plot that didn’t exist at the time,” Somberg continued.

But the state argues the men were not pressured and would have committed those acts regardless.

“There is no reprehensible conduct because the government didn’t pressure, cajole, threaten, force or coerce anybody in this case and they haven’t shown that at all,” Assistant Attorney General Sunita Doddamani said.

“These aren’t guys that are are these sort of doomsday preppers, hapless being arm twisted by ‘Dan’ into targeting law enforcement and politicians,” she said.

The defense also argues their clients didn’t even know the name of the alleged ringleader of the kidnapping plot: Adam Fox. He’s one of five men that are set to face a judge in federal court next week for their roles in the plot.

“They didn’t even know Adam Fox’s name,” Doddamani said. “This alliance between the Wolverine Watchmen and Adam Fox was going to happen with or without Dan or the government. It was connections that these guys sought out, nurtured, encouraged themselves and then made.”

The FBI started its investigation into the Wolverine Watchmen extremist group in 2020 after finding social media conversations that talked about violently overthrowing the government.

“Before Dan ever joined the group they were promoting terrorism, political violence including on their Facebook posts, exhibits we put on there about hanging politicians from the trees of liberty, watering the trees of liberty with the blood of tyrants,” Doddamani said.

During testimony Dan said he was trying to de-escalate the group and provide accessibility to the FBI. Paul Bellar’s attorney Andrew Kirkpatrick said his client made it very clear what Dan’s intentions were.

“If Mr. Bellar had not left the state of Michigan on July 27 to go live with his father and go back to school and he continued on with these individuals he’d be in federal court sitting right next to them but he’s not because he left and he started realizing the craziness of think. I think the record is clear and the I think the recordings are clear,” he said.

The defense attorneys went to say the case dropped and the charges dismissed. The prosecution is looking for felony count of gang membership, providing material support for terrorist acts and felony firearms for Morrison and Musico.

Judge Thomas Wilson is expected to make a decision on the entrapment hearing and whether this case will go to trial Tuesday afternoon.

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