RECAP: Everything we know about the plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Michigan News

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at the General Motors Detroit- Hamtramck assembly plant on January 27, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. – GM announced a $2.2 billion USD investment at its Detroit- Hamtramck assembly plant to produce a variety of all-electric trucks and SUVs. GM’s first all-electric truck will be a pickup with production scheduled to begin in late 2021. Detroit-Hamtramck will be GM’s first fully-dedicated electric vehicle assembly plant. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP) (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS)– A plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and make her stand trial for treason.

That was the plan of Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta.

All of the men accept Croft who is from Delaware, are from Michigan.

They were arrested last night October 8th, and now face federal charges, and life in prison.

According to authorities, they first learned about the plot months ago on social media. They also say, suspects used encrypted messages and code words to try and stay hidden from police, they did surveillance at least twice on the governor’s home, talked about setting of explosives to keep the police away from her house, they even considered blowing up a highway bridge as a diversion.

According to the FBI, officers conducted at least 19 raids across the state as part of there investigation.

In the criminal complaint, an FBI agent wrote that talk of targeting the governor surfaced as early as June as Fox and other members of an unnamed militia met in Ohio. They were angry about Whitmer’s mandates issued in response to the coronavirus that shut down businesses.

The documents show that as conversations continued over the following months, sometimes at tactical training gatherings, a more firm plan formed.

“Fox described it as a ‘Snatch and grab, man. Grab the (expletive) Governor. Just grab the (expletive). Because that that point, we do that, dude — it’s over,’” the criminal complaint reads in part.

According to the document, the militia members talked about storming the state Capitol in Lansing and killing police officers, but Garbin shut that idea down. It was then the focus turned to the governor’s vacation home. The suspects allegedly figured out where that house was and went there Aug. 29 to scope it out.

Fox ultimately bought a Taser to use in the attack. In addition to discussing various bombings, Garbin suggested blowing up a nearby bridge in an effort to slow the police response.

The plan was to take Whitmer to Wisconsin and hold a kangaroo court trial for treason.

There was talk of actually carrying out the plan on the night of Sept. 12 and Sept. 13, but Croft thought the time was not right, so the suspects held off. They wanted to do it before the Nov. 3 election.

Governor Whitmer also addressed the state following the Attorney General’s press conference, where she cited the President’s refusal  last week at a presidential election debate to condemn white supremacist groups, instead telling them to “stand back and stand by.”

“Hate groups heard the president’s words not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry, as a call to action,” Whitmer said. “When our leaders speak, their words matter. They carry weight. When our leaders meet with, encourage or fraternize with domestic terrorists, they legitimize their actions and they are complicit. When they stoke and contribute to hate speech, they are complicit.”

 President Trump responded on Twitter Thursday night following the announcement that thirteen militia men plotted to kidnap Governor Whitmer and target other Michigan government officials.

In response, Governor Whitmer tweeted: “Mr. President, I thought you weren’t interested in a virtual debate? You clearly didn’t watch my speech earlier. Feel free to tune in:”

and Lieutenant Gilchrist defended Governor Whitmer and said to Pres. Trump, “Just stop. Enough is enough. You are a threat to the safety of every American.”

Governor Whitmer also sat down with 6 News Capital Correspondent Tim Skubick immediately following that press conference, for an exclusive one-on-one interview. She told him, “she knew the job would be tough” and “she’s glad she can rely on State Police for her safety.”

In addition to the six men, the Attorney General’s office charged seven other men known to be members of the militia group, Wolverine Watchmen or associates of Wolverine Watchmen were charged with a total of 19 felonies under Michigan’s Anti-Terrorism Act.

The suspects, now under arrest, are alleged to have called on the groups’ members to identify the home addresses of law enforcement officers in order to target them; made threats of violence to instigate a civil war and engaged in the planning and training for an operation to attack the state Capitol building and kidnap government officials, including Governor Gretchen Whitmer. 

The seven individuals were found by Attorney General Nessel, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Andrew Birge, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Matthew Schneider, the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Michigan State Police after a several-months-long investigation that culminated Wednesday night in the execution of a series of search warrants and arrest warrants – both in-state and out-of-state – related to acts of terrorism under Michigan state law. 

“There has been a disturbing increase in anti-government rhetoric and the re-emergence of groups that embrace extremist ideologies,” Attorney General Nessel said. “These groups often seek to recruit new members by seizing on a moment of civil unrest and using it to advance their agenda of self-reliance and armed resistance. This is more than just political disagreement or passionate advocacy, some of these groups’ mission is simply to create chaos and inflict harm upon others.” 

The seven people, who are members of the militia group, Wolverine Watchmen or associates of Wolverine Watchmen, were charged by Attorney General Nessel as part of the joint law enforcement effort: 

  • Paul Bellar, 21, of Milford:
    • Providing material support for terrorist acts – a 20-year felony and/or $20,000 fine;
    • Gang membership – a 20-year felony, which may be served as a consecutive sentence; and
    • Carrying or possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony; felony firearm – a two-year mandatory prison sentence to be served consecutively.
  • Shawn Fix, 38, of Belleville:
    • Providing material support for terrorist acts – a 20-year felony and/or $20,000 fine; and 
    • Carrying or possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony; felony firearm – a two-year mandatory prison sentence to be served consecutively.
  • Eric Molitor, 36, of Cadillac:
    • Providing material support for terrorist acts – a 20-year felony and/or $20,000 fine; and
    • Carrying or possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony; felony firearm – a two-year mandatory prison sentence to be served consecutively.
  • Michael Null, 38, of Plainwell:
    • Providing material support for terrorist acts – a 20-year felony and/or $20,000 fine; and
    • Carrying or possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony; felony firearm – a two-year mandatory prison sentence to be served consecutively.
  • William Null, 38, of Shelbyville:
    • Providing material support for terrorist acts – a 20-year felony and/or $20,000 fine; and
    • Carrying or possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony; felony firearm – a two-year mandatory prison sentence to be served consecutively.
  • Pete Musico, 42, and Joseph Morrison, 42, who live together in Munith:
    • One count each of threat of terrorism, a 20-year felony and/or $20,000 fine;
    • One count each of gang membership, a 20-year felony that may be served as a consecutive sentence;
    • One count each of providing material support for terrorist acts; and
    • One count each for carrying or possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony; felony firearm – a two-year mandatory prison sentence to be served consecutively. 

These charges are subject to change after a complete review of the evidence obtained through the warrants, and differ from those charges issued at the federal level.  

Michael Null, William Null and Molitor were arraigned today before Antrim County Magistrate Jessica Allmand. A cash bond of $250,000 was set for William and Michael Null, while Molitor’s bond was send at $250,000, 10 percent. Their probable cause conferences are set for 1 p.m. Oct. 14, and their preliminary exams are scheduled for Oct. 21. 

Musico and Morrison are expected to be arraigned at 2 p.m. in Jackson County. Fix is in custody, and his arraignment is pending in Antrim County.  

“I’d like to personally thank the law enforcement officers who participated in yesterday’s arrests and those who have assisted with this investigation throughout the past several months,” Attorney General Nessel said. “Your heroic efforts have left the people of this state safer and the instruments of our government stronger. I know that I speak on behalf of Michiganders everywhere when I say we are forever grateful to you for your actions.” 

Reaction to the news came from across the country, Michigan Speakers of the House Lee Chatfield, violence has no place in politics.

Chatfield wrote “the people who targeted the governor and police officers are un-American. Justice should be swift and severe.”

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey echoed those thoughts, saying “A threat against our Governor is a threat against us all.”

Other state lawmakers spoke with 6 news and shared their thoughts.

“When I put my hand on the Bible and took the oath of office 22 months ago, I knew this job would be hard, but I’ll be honest: I never could have imagined something like this,” Whitmer said at her press conference on Thursday.

<<<6 News will continue to follow this story, and bring you updates here at WLNS.com

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