Jury selection starts in 3rd trial tied to Gov. Whitmer plot

Oct 3, 2022, 10:03 AM | Updated: 3:30 pm
FILE - This combo of undated file images provided by Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, left, and Jac...

FILE - This combo of undated file images provided by Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, left, and Jackson County Sheriff's Office, show, from left, Paul Bellar, Joseph Morrison and Pete Musico. A scheme to kidnap Michigan's governor in 2020 will get yet another airing in a different court when three men face trial Monday, Oct. 3, 2022, just weeks before voters consider whether to reelect Gretchen Whitmer to a second term. Joe Morrison, Pete Musico and Paul Bellar are charged in Jackson County, Mich., with three crimes, including providing material support for terrorist acts. (Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center and Jackson County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)

(Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center and Jackson County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)

JACKSON, Mich. (AP) — Questions about guns, secretly recorded “repugnant” talk and even the Jan. 6 Capitol riot dominated jury selection Monday in the third trial connected to a 2020 anti-government plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Dozens of potential jurors packed the courtroom, even sitting on heating vents in a nearly century-old courthouse in Jackson, Michigan. Many were dismissed by the end of the day because of personal conflicts or other reasons, while others were told to return Tuesday for the final leg of the process.

Joe Morrison, Pete Musico and Paul Bellar are charged with three crimes, including providing material support for a terrorist act. All were members of the Wolverine Watchmen, a paramilitary group that trained in the Jackson area, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) west of Detroit.

The trio is not charged with directly participating in the kidnapping scheme, which was broken up by the FBI in October 2020. That prosecution, which was handled in federal court, produced four convictions and two acquittals.

Morrison, Musico and Bellar are accused of assisting the others. The charges were filed in state court by the Michigan attorney general.

Lawyers and Judge Thomas Wilson asked questions to try to weed out biases in the jury pool.

“Let’s talk about Jan. 6 at the United States Capitol. … A rather uncivilized event,” Assistant Attorney General Bill Rollstin said.

“Hurtful,” a woman replied.

Rollstin mentioned the riot because there will be evidence that Morrison, Musico and Bellar were heavily armed — legally — when they attended a protest inside the Michigan Capitol in 2020.

“You have any strong feelings about AR-15s?” asked Musico’s attorney, Kareem Johnson.

The all-day hearing allowed lawyers to repeatedly signal what’s to come. Johnson said the men are not charged with making threats but that some evidence will seem “repugnant,” a reference to provocative remarks about harming law enforcement.

“You’re going to hear comments you’re not going to like,” said Bellar’s attorney, Andrew Kirkpatrick.

Investigators secretly recorded hate-filled conversations about Whitmer and other public officials who were denounced as tyrants, especially during the pandemic when businesses were shut down, people were ordered to stay home and schools were closed.

Morrison’s lawyer urged the jury pool to keep context in mind.

“We’re talking about events that occurred two years ago in this highly tumultuous, highly emotional time,” Leonard Ballard said.

Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks pleaded guilty to conspiracy in federal court in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The alleged leaders, Barry Croft and Adam Fox, were convicted at trial in August.

Defense lawyers say Morrison, Musico and Bellar cut ties with Fox before the kidnapping plot accelerated in summer 2020. The men also claim they were entrapped by an undercover informant and his FBI handlers.

___

Find the AP’s full coverage of the kidnapping plot cases: https://apnews.com/hub/whitmer-kidnap-plot-trial. Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwritez.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock campaigns on Sept. 2, 2022, in Atlanta with other members of historica...
Associated Press

In Georgia, how sports explain a political battleground

SMYRNA, Ga. (AP) — The reception area of a metro Atlanta office suite is a veritable museum of Herschel Walker’s football success for the University of Georgia Bulldogs and the NFL. The office is part of the Atlanta Braves’ real estate development in the Major League Baseball franchise’s new suburban home. This headquarters for Georgia’s […]
8 hours ago
Sterling Sheffield, an assistant professor of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences at the Univers...
Associated Press

FDA change ushers in cheaper, easier-to-get hearing aids

It’s now a lot easier — and cheaper — for many hard-of-hearing Americans to get help. Hearing aids can now be sold without a prescription from a specialist. Over-the-counter, or OTC, hearing aids started hitting the market in October at prices that can be thousands of dollars lower than prescription hearing aids. About 30 million […]
8 hours ago
FILE - Light illuminates part of the Supreme Court building at dusk on Capitol Hill in Washington, ...
Associated Press

Supreme Court weighs ‘most important case’ on democracy

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is about to confront a new elections case, a Republican-led challenge asking the justices for a novel ruling that could significantly increase the power of state lawmakers over elections for Congress and the presidency. The court is set to hear arguments Wednesday in a case from North Carolina, where […]
8 hours ago
In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, an image captured off a screen at the Jiuquan Satelli...
Associated Press

3 Chinese astronauts return to Earth after 6-month mission

BEIJING (AP) — Three Chinese astronauts landed in a northern desert on Sunday after six months working to complete construction of the Tiangong station, a symbol of the country’s ambitious space program, state TV reported. A capsule carrying commander Chen Dong and astronauts Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe touched down at a landing site in […]
8 hours ago
FILE - The logo of the Organization of the Petroleoum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is seen outside of...
Associated Press

No OPEC+ oil shakeup as Russian price cap stirs uncertainty

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The Saudi-led OPEC oil cartel and allied producers including Russia did not change their targets for shipping oil to the global economy amid uncertainty about the impact of new Western sanctions against Russia that could take significant amounts of oil off the market. The decision at a meeting of oil ministers […]
8 hours ago
Associated Press

Police: Vandalism suspected in North Carolina power outage

MOORE COUNTY, N.C. (AP) — Authorities in North Carolina believe vandalism may have caused a power outage that affected thousands of customers Saturday night. A mass power outage in several communities beginning just after 7 p.m. Saturday “is being investigated as a criminal occurrence,” the Moore County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post. “As […]
8 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
Jury selection starts in 3rd trial tied to Gov. Whitmer plot