FBI: Kidnapping plot suspect said he ‘wanted Whitmer’s head’

Michigan

JACKSON, Mich. (WOOD) — Testimony continued Thursday in the preliminary hearing for three of the men accused of conspiring to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, with the defense trying to show the group was all talk and no action and the defense emphasizing the strength of their words and extent of their plans.

Paul Bellar, Joseph Morrison and Pete Musico are among 14 people who investigators say plotted to kidnap Whitmer because they were angry about her unilateral coronavirus mitigation orders.

FBI Special Agent Henrik Impola testified Thursday that Morrison told members of his group, called the Wolverine Watchmen, that he “wants Whitmer’s head on a platter.”

Asked by a defense attorney whether that could be satire, Impola replied, “I guess I don’t think that’s funny.”

The defense attorneys tried to show that Morrison left the Wolverine Watchmen before the plot to kidnap Whitmer formed. But the prosecution pointed out that Morrison, who is considered the leader of the Wolverine Watchmen and part of the antigovernment Boogaloo moment, was aware of the kidnapping plans and provided the training facility.

“There is no way to remove political violence from the concept of Boogaloo,” Impola said.

The preliminary hearing began Wednesday. FBI agents testified that the suspects held training sessions at a “kill house,” which was meant to help them practice entering a building and finding their target, and that they planned an attack on the Battle Creek Police Department.

Defense attorneys have emphasized that no attacks actually happened and one was ever hurt. They also pointed the finger at an informant who kept the FBI up to date on the group’s plans, saying that person ran some of the training.

After the defense’s cross-examination of Impola, prosecutors worked to reestablish the evidence against the men, pointing to a meeting in the basement of the Vac Shack in Grand Rapids, where militia ringleader Adam Fox was living, in which Bellar offered ideas for attacks.

“Having snipers in hotels around the Capitol so they could attack law enforcement,” Impola described.

He also testified that Bellar introduced tradecraft on how to vet members of the group even after moving out of state.

Impola went on to say that Musico, who was also known as Crazy Pete or Grandpa, presented an plan to attack politicians and law enforcement in their homes at 3 a.m., though a date was never set.

“He in fact gave the group an ultimatum and said, ‘If you are not willing to attack politicians, you need to leave the group,'” the agent said.

Testimony is expected to continue Friday with the FBI informant. At the end of the proceedings, a Jackson County judge will decide whether there is enough evidence to send the three men to trial on terrorism charges.

Eight of the 14 suspects arrested last year face state-level charges, including Bellar, Morrison and Musico. Six others were charged at the federal level and one of those has already pleaded guilty.

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