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'Are you willing to be considered a domestic terrorist?' suspects in kidnapping plot asked each other

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Posted at 9:07 AM, Mar 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-04 09:07:44-05

JACKSON, Mich. — Three suspects charged in the plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer returned to court Wednesday as prosecutors unveiled some of the evidence collected against them.

Paul Bellar, Pete Musico, and Joseph Morrison are all accused of providing material support for terrorist actions. They are among eight total men charged at the state level in the plan to kidnap the governor, take over the state capitol, and spark a civil war in Michigan. Another six face federal charges.

Related: Kidnapping plot suspects wanted to hold trial, execution live on TV

During testimony Wednesday morning, an FBI agent laid out some of the information federal investigators gathered on the group called the Wolverine Watchmen.

The agent testified the group formed in 2019 and began to recruit members heavily during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic. To weed out recruits, the leadership would ask them if they were "willing to be considered a domestic terrorist?” Those who answered "No" were not admitted to the group.

In June 2020, the group's leadership formalized the power structure, with Joseph Morrison as CEO. One of the suspects charged in federal court, Ty Garbin, was made part of the executive committee.

Read: Ty Garbin pleads guilty, agrees to work with prosecutors against other suspects in plot to kidnap Governor

Also in leadership was a person who turned informant to the FBI. That informant provided agents with access to the group's encoded message threads and reported on activities as well.

Related: FBI agent infiltrated kidnapping plot as demolitions expert

The Watchmen met several times on property in Jackson County, where Joseph Morrison and Pete Musico live. According to the FBI, the group held rehearsals for possible engagements with law enforcement.

Morrison and Musico are both facing four counts: threat of terrorism, gang membership, providing material support for terrorist acts, and possessing a firearm during a felony. Bellar faces three counts: gang membership, providing material support for terrorist acts, and possessing a firearm during a felony.