(AP) — A West Michigan man charged with assisting the leaders of a plan to kidnap Michigan’s governor denied any role Monday but conceded he should have contacted police when talk turned to obtaining explosives.
“It seemed to be getting serious,” William Null, 41, of Allegan County, told jurors in a northern Michigan courtroom. “I don’t know if they were ever going to go through with it, but it was enough for me to not want to be involved.”
Null, brother Michael Null and Eric Molitor are on trial in Antrim County, the last of 14 men charged in state or federal court since FBI agents broke up a kidnapping conspiracy against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer just weeks before the 2020 presidential election.
Authorities said the men were anti-government extremists who were also furious over restrictions ordered during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Nulls and Molitor are charged with providing material support for terrorist acts, namely aiding leaders Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr., who were convicted last year in federal court.
There is no dispute that the Nulls participated in militia-style training with dozens of people in September 2020 and then joined a small group that drove 75 miles that same weekend to see Whitmer’s lakeside vacation home.
But William Null insisted he had no active role in the surveillance and didn’t initially know that the purpose of the night ride was to see Whitmer’s house. He said Fox and Croft often were “half-baked” on marijuana and spewing “crazy rants” against government officials.
Null said he became concerned the next day when Fox, Croft and others talked about getting a bomb to possibly blow up a bridge near Whitmer’s home.
“I literally locked eyes with my brother,” Null testified. “At this point in time, I’m involved in something I do not want to be involved in.”
Defense attorney Damian Nunzio asked: Why not call police?
“I wish I would have,” Null replied. “I didn’t want no more to do with this. … I should have, I guess.”
On cross-examination, prosecutors, however, sought to portray Null as more wicked than genuinely regretful. They played secretly recorded audio of him telling Fox that shooting Whitmer wouldn’t bring a life prison sentence.
“So that was like a joke to you about killing the governor?” Assistant Attorney General William Rollstin said.
“Yeah, I laughed at him,” Null said of Fox.
Null earlier explained to jurors that he had started his own militia in 2015, partly to protect people who wanted to rally in favor of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. He said he also attended protests against COVID-19 restrictions, typically wearing body armor and bearing guns.
Informants and undercover FBI agents were inside Fox’s group for months, making recordings and collecting evidence. Whitmer was not physically harmed.
Nine men been convicted, either through guilty pleas or in three trials, while two have been acquitted.
After the plot was thwarted, Whitmer blamed Trump, saying he had given “comfort to those who spread fear and hatred and division.” Trump called the kidnapping plan a “fake deal” in August 2022.