Prosecutors on Friday played secretly recorded audio from a 2020 meeting in the basement of a vacuum shop as they tried to show jurors how a paramilitary group was connected to a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
It was contemptuous talk about police and politicians in the makeshift home of Adam Fox — who was recently convicted of conspiring to abduct Whitmer — as a step toward kicking off a U.S. civil war, known to extremists as the “boogaloo.” The FBI intervened in the fall of 2020.
Joe Morrison, Paul Bellar and Pete Musico, members of a group called the Wolverine Watchmen, are charged with providing material support to Fox and others, though they’re not accused of directly participating in the kidnapping scheme.
The trial in Jackson, Michigan, is the first in state court since prosecutors won convictions against Fox and three other men in federal court. Testimony began Wednesday.
“I like how you guys roll, man,” Fox said at the Vac Shack, according to the audio recorded by an FBI informant.
Bellar was at the June 2020 meeting, along with fellow militia member Ty Garbin, who eventually pleaded guilty in federal court.
The next day, Bellar told fellow Watchmen that he liked Fox: “The guy’s definitely got the spirit for this,” according to chat messages.
FBI agent Hank Impola testified that talk turned to training. He said Musico invited Fox to gun drills at a rural property in Jackson County.
“Just because I’m a church director, don’t think I won’t shed blood in the name of liberty and defense,” Musico said, according to a message read aloud by the agent.
Morrison was not at the vacuum shop meeting, but he tried to get to know Fox by proposing a double date at a Denny’s restaurant, Impola testified.
Defense attorneys acknowledge that Morrison, Musico and Bellar expressed violent anti-government rants but insist they had cut ties with Fox when the Whitmer kidnapping scheme began to pick up steam during summer 2020.