Three men convicted in connection with a plot to kidnap Michigan’s governor in 2020 were sentenced on Thursday to multiple years imprisonment. Two of the conspirators are still awaiting sentencing.
A jury convicted them in October of charges including gang membership, firearm violations, and providing material support to terrorism.
Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wilson sentenced Joseph Morrison to a minimum of 10 years in prison and his father-in-law, Pete Musico to a maximum of 12 years. Paul Bellar was sentenced to a minimum of seven-year imprisonment.
Morrison (28), and Musico (44) could each serve up to 42 years imprisonment, depending on whether parole is granted under consecutive sentences issued by Wilson. Bellar, 23 years old, could spend as long as 22 years behind bars.
They “supported a violent plot and provided material support to terrorism,” the defendants said. They chose actions that were antithetical to the nation’s strength and safety,” Governor Gretchen Whitmer stated in a recorded victim impact statement, which was presented in court.
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During the two-hour hearing, the men – dressed in orange prison jumpsuits – sat with their attorneys with their hands shackled to their waists. Each made a statement to the court, saying they were sorry for their actions.
State prosecutors won the victory, arguing that the defendants helped two other men who were in August found guilty by the federal court of orchestrating for participating in the kidnapping plot.
Defense lawyers argued that their clients didn’t know about a plan to kidnap Governor and that their actions were covered by the First and Second Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
These three men were one of more than a dozen who were arrested in October 2020. They were charged with federal and state crimes related to a conspiracy against Governor Whitmer.
Partly, the plot was inspired by the frustrations of defendants about restrictions that the Democratic governor placed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prosecutors said that the group had planned to enter Whitmer’s vacation house, kidnap Whitmer, and then take her to gunpoint for “trial” on treason allegations.
Prosecutors said that the conspirators believed an abduction would incite a civil war and spark a violent uprising.
Morrison, Musico, and Bellar were among seven of the defendants who were convicted or pleaded guilty for their roles in the conspiracy. Two other defendants were exonerated of federal charges in an April trial.
Two militia members who were accused of plotting to start a “second American Revolution” in the kidnapping plot were convicted of conspiracy to kidnap. After the spring trial ended with a dead jury, Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. have been convicted in a second trial. During those proceedings, two other defendants were also acquitted.
Fox and Croft will be sentenced in the latter part of this month. They could spend the rest of their lives in prison.
Musico and Morrison were accused of hosting training sessions in tactical situations on their property in a remote area of Michigan. Bellar was accused of the provision of plans for tactical maneuvers and coded language for covert communications.
Prosecutors said that all three were part of the militia group known as the Wolverine Watchmen.