The three men who were found guilty of supporting the 2020 plot to impeach Michigan Gov.
Pete Musico, who was convicted along with Joe Morrison and Paul Bellar of providing material support for an act of terrorism, as well as two other crimes, was sentenced to a minimum of 12 years in prison. Morrison received a minimum of 10 years, while Bellar was sentenced to a minimum of 7 years.
Before the men learned their fate, Whitmer said, in a recorded impact statement played in a Jackson County courtroom, “A conspiracy to kidnap and kill a sitting governor of the state of Michigan is a threat to democracy.”
“This type of violent extremism has become extremely common. “Political leaders and their families on both sides of the aisle are being threatened and attacked.”
TRIAL ORDERED FOR 5 MEN IN PLOT TO KIDNAP MICHIGAN GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER
“Unfortunately, these defendants have not taken responsibility for their actions,” she said. “If you want my advice on what to do with men like this, it’s simple. Cut a sentence that meets the gravity of the damage they’ve done to our democracy.”
The three, according to The Associated Press, held gun drills in rural Jackson county with the head of the scheme, Adam Fox, who was disgusted with Whitmer and other officers in 2020 and said he wanted to kidnap her. State prosecutors have said the Wolverine Watchmen – of which the trio were a part – were a criminal enterprise.
During their trial, jurors read and heard violent, anti-government screeds as well as support for the “boogaloo,” a civil war that may have been fueled by a gruesome kidnapping. Prosecutors said the COVID-19 restrictions ordered by Whitmer were used to influence more people to the Watchmen.
LIFE SENTENCE RECOMMENDED FOR ALLEGED LEADER OF GIAN KIDNAP CHARGES
Defense lawyers argued that the three men had severed ties with Fox by late summer 2020 when the Whitmer plot came into focus. Unlike Fox and others, they didn’t travel to Northern Michigan to scout the governor’s vacation home or participate in a crucial weekend training session inside a “shooting house.”
Whitmer, a Democrat elected to a second term, was never physically harmed. Undercover FBI agents and informants were inside the Fox group for months, and the scheme was broken with 14 arrests in October 2020.
Morrison and Bellar apologized to Whitmer during Thursday’s sentencing hearing.
“Your honor, I am not the boogeyman that the prosecution is trying to claim that I am. I am a father, I am a husband, I am a friend and a neighbor. I have made mistakes. I have acted recklessly and carelessly with mine. I got around the wrong people, I fed off their energy,” Morrison said. “I apologize from the bottom of my heart to the governor, to her family and to all law enforcement that was affected by what colluded with this whole thing … if I could, your honor, I would take it all back. ”
Whitmer, in her own statement, said that she and her family have “changed” after the ordeal.
“I worry about the safety of everyone around me when I’m in public,” she said. “I’m reluctant to share too much because I’m worried it might put a relative, a staff member, a police officer at risk of my security details.”
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Separately, in federal court in Grand Rapids, Fox and Barry Croft Jr. – who were convicted in August of two counts of conspiracy related to the kidnapping scheme and attempts to use a weapon of mass destruction in two weeks – face possible life sentences.
Two men who pleaded guilty got significant breaks: Ty Garbin is free after a 2 1/2-year prison term and Kaleb Franks was sentenced to four years. Brandon Caserta and Daniel Harris were acquitted by a jury.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.