Trial testimony ends for 3 tied to Gov. Whitmer kidnap plot

Oct 21, 2022, 8:29 AM | Updated: 10:33 am
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)

Prosecutors and defense lawyers rested their case Friday in the trial of three men charged with assisting the 2020 plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

An undercover FBI agent, Mark Schweers, told jurors that leader Adam Fox talked favorably about the Wolverine Watchmen, a paramilitary group whose members included Joe Morrison, Pete Musico and Paul Bellar.

The trio is not accused of having a direct role in the Whitmer kidnapping scheme, which included a night ride to northern Michigan to scout her vacation home. The main charge is providing material support for a terrorist act, especially gun drills and ambush training with Fox in Jackson County.

The last witness for prosecutors was a gas station attendant who said Musico and Morrison regularly complained about the Democratic governor and her COVID-19 restrictions and wanted to harm her back in 2020.

“She’s a Nazi. She’s a tyrant,” Shawn Toth said, quoting the two.

The trial resumed Friday following a four-day suspension for an illness among the defense lawyers.

Morrison, Musico and Bellar chose not to testify. Defense attorneys briefly called a state police officer and recalled an FBI agent before resting their side of the case. Closing arguments were scheduled for Monday.

The trial in state court is an offshoot of the main case handled in federal court in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Fox and Barry Croft Jr. were convicted of a kidnapping conspiracy. Two men pleaded guilty and two more were acquitted.

Defense lawyers say Morrison, Musico and Bellar stopped associating with Fox by late summer when the kidnapping plot was accelerating. They also didn’t participate in training that occurred on the same weekend as the trip to see Whitmer’s home.

Bellar had moved to South Carolina by the end of July 2020, two months before the FBI broke up the plot with 14 arrests. Whitmer was never physically harmed: Undercover agents and informants were embedded in the group for months.

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White reported from Detroit.

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Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwritez

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Trial testimony ends for 3 tied to Gov. Whitmer kidnap plot