JACKSON, Mich. (WOOD) — Three of the 14 suspects charged with plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer were in court Wednesday as some of the case against them was laid out.
Paul Bellar, Joseph Morrison and Pete Musico are all facing state-level charges of providing material support for terrorist acts. Prosecutors say they are members of an antigovernment militia group called the Wolverine Watchmen, which conspired to kidnap Whitmer because they were angry about her unilateral coronavirus mitigation orders.
The FBI’s investigation called “Undercover Cold Snap” collected mountains of information about the group. The FBI says the men had protest routes, flight plans and places to set up snipers in Lansing.
They participated in was multiple training session with what are called “kill houses,” designed to help them practice enter a building and find their target.
The investigation also revealed there was a planned attack on the Battle Creek Police Department.
“Initially, the first concern we had was their willingness to kill law enforcement,” FBI Special Agent Henrik Impola testified during Wednesday’s preliminary hearing.
Impola said the Wolverine Watchmen were also linking up with other groups from around the country.
Prosecutors showed several social media posts in which the suspects threatened violence and some that appeared to show they were emboldened by former President Donald Trump’s rhetoric.
“This is a meme with Gov. Whitmer and her head replacing a Nazi leader’s head, which says ‘furor Michigan,'” an investigator described images being shown to the court. “This is propaganda with an American flag dripping from a bullet that says, ‘By bullet or ballot, restoration of the republic is coming.'”
He went on to describe a screen capture of an April 17, 2020, tweet from Trump that read, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!”
“Joe Morrison posted it on Facebook to his followers,” the investigator said.
Whitmer also blamed Trump’s tolerance for extremists for emboldening them.
The defense tried to poke holes in the evidence and point out that no one was actually hurt, saying, “It’s all talk.”
The preliminary hearing was expected to continue Thursday. Once all of the evidence is presented, the judge will determine if there is enough to send the case on to trial.
Of the 14 people arrested in October and charged in connection to the kidnapping plot, eight were charged at the state level. Six were charged at the federal level and one of those has already pleaded guilty.