Jury in 3rd trial won’t hear earlier results in Whitmer plot

Oct 10, 2022, 4:40 PM | Updated: 4:46 pm
Paul Bellar, middle, appears before Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wilson on Wednesday, ...

Paul Bellar, middle, appears before Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wilson on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022 for trial in Jackson, Mich. Paul Bellar, Joseph Morrison and Pete Musico are charged in connection with a 2020 anti-government plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. (J. Scott Park/Jackson Citizen Patriot via AP, Pool)

(J. Scott Park/Jackson Citizen Patriot via AP, Pool)

The results of two federal trials won’t be shared with jurors hearing evidence against three men who are charged in connection with a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a judge said Monday.

Defense lawyers pressed a judge in Jackson, Michigan, to let the jury know what happened to the six men who were separately charged with conspiracy in federal court.

An FBI agent has presented text messages, social media posts and recorded conversations to try to tie the three men to the others who were considered bigger players in the scheme. But two of those six were acquitted earlier this year, a result that wasn’t revealed during Hank Impola’s testimony.

“Bring it all in,” Leonard Ballard, an attorney for Joe Morrison, urged Judge Thomas Wilson with the jury out of the courtroom.

“It’s the truth and it’s the whole truth,” Ballard said. “I’m not comfortable with us continuing to tap dance around.”

Morrison, Pete Musico and Paul Bellar are charged in state court with providing material assistance for a terrorist act. They were members of a paramilitary group, the Wolverine Watchmen, that held training sessions, but they’re not accused of having a direct role in the kidnapping plot.

Wilson agreed that the results of the federal case could be relevant to the defense. But he said disclosure could be unfair to prosecutors.

“We’re dealing with different charges,” the judge said. “As attorneys, I think that’s much easier to understand. But when it comes to a jury of 12 lay people to understand those differences, I’m concerned that it would be overly prejudicial.”

Wilson said jurors might think: “‘Well, if they got off, why shouldn’t these guys get off?’ The charges were significantly different and more serious.”

Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta were acquitted of conspiracy in federal court last spring. Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr., were convicted in August. Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks pleaded guilty.

The six were accused of training and planning to kidnap Whitmer at her vacation home in 2020 to ignite a civil war, known to anti-government extremists as the “boogaloo.” The FBI, however, had undercover agents and informants inside the group and broke it up.


White reported from Detroit.

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Jury in 3rd trial won’t hear earlier results in Whitmer plot