The last three men to stand trial in connection with the FBI-inspired plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer have been found not guilty on all counts.
A Michigan jury on Friday acquitted Eric Molitor and twin brothers William Null and Michael Null after about a day of deliberations following a three-week trial. Molitor broke down in tears after his verdict was read.
The last three men to stand trial in connection with a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) have been found not guilty on all counts.
The defendants broke down in tears of joy as the jury’s verdict was read aloud. pic.twitter.com/8nNniPOiU7
— The Recount (@therecount) September 15, 2023
“Molitor, 39, and the Null brothers, both 41, had pleaded not guilty to state charges of providing material support for terrorist acts and illegally possessing firearms,” ABC News reported.
The trio were among the 14 men charged in state and federal court over the alleged plot to kidnap the governor at her vacation home in Antrim County in 2020.
The hoax involved “at least a dozen FBI informants working with FBI handlers and undercover agents out of numerous FBI field offices,” Julie Kelly reported last year.
“Working in secret, [the informants] did more than just passively observe and report on the actions of the suspects,” reporters Ken Bensinger and Jessica Garrison wrote. “Instead, they had a hand in nearly every aspect of the alleged plot, starting with its inception. The extent of their involvement raises questions as to whether there would have even been a conspiracy without them.”
Molitor, 39, and the Null brothers, both 41, had pleaded not guilty to state charges of providing material support for terrorist acts and illegally possessing firearms.
In his closing arguments on Wednesday, prosecutor James Rossiter claimed that the defendants were going to help the plot leaders “bring terrorism to Antrim County.”
“If you’re going to help somebody, knowing that they planned a terrorist act, that’s wrong,” Rossiter said.
Molitor’s defense attorney, William Barnett, argued in his closing that the state’s case was “weak,” according to ABC.
“This thing just became a good story they couldn’t back out of. They’re here pulling the shortcuts to try to get somebody convicted, an innocent person,” Barnett said.
Prosecutors argued during the trial that the three men “hated” their government and assisted in the kidnapping plot, with the Nulls providing the “muscle” and Molitor recording video of Whitmer’s Antrim County property.
William Null and Molitor testified in their own defense, claiming they didn’t know the true nature of the plot until the last minute.
William Null told the jury that while on a nighttime surveillance mission, he didn’t know they were going to the governor’s cabin.
Molitor testified he feared for his life during surveillance of the cabin with Adam Fox, one of the plot leaders who was convicted on federal charges.
“What happens if we don’t do this stuff?” Molitor told the court. “He wasn’t saying, ‘Shoot somebody’ — that would have been a hard no. He didn’t say, ‘Blow something up’ — that would have been a hard no. He said, ‘Take a video.’ I took a video.”
The men were linked to the militia group the Wolverine Watchmen, prosecutors said. They were arrested in October 2020 after a member of the group turned into a confidential FBI informant once talk turned to harming law enforcement and public officials, according to prosecutors. Whitmer was unharmed.
Previously, nine of the militia members have been convicted in state or federal court in connection with the alleged plot, while two have been acquitted.
Pete Musico, Joseph Morrison and Paul Bellar were found guilty by a jury in Jackson County of providing material support for a terrorist act, the most serious charge, as well as firearms charges and membership in a gang and given yearslong state prison sentences in December.
Fox and Barry Croft Jr. were found guilty of federal conspiracy charges in a retrial last year after a previous trial ended in a hung jury. They both received double-digit sentences.
Kaleb Franks and Ty Garbin pleaded guilty to lesser charges last year and agreed to testify in the federal case against Fox and Croft. Franks was sentenced to four years in prison, while Garbin was sentenced to 30 months.
Brian Higgins and Shawn Fix each pleaded guilty to reduced state charges earlier this year in Antrim County and have agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. Both have yet to be sentenced.
A jury found two of the members — Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta — not guilty of federal conspiracy charges during a trial last year.
“Another FBI case entrapping people into a fake terrorism results in 3 acquittals. Anyone think the #FBI can be trusted with this power?” wrote former FBI agent Kyle Seraphin on X Friday after the not-guilty verdicts came down. “This stuff can’t continue in America.”
Former FBI agent Steve Friend also commented on X, writing: “The FBI fed-napping is blown up. These guys were vulnerable and the FBI targeted them for entrapment. Thank goodness the jurors saw through this shameful abuse of power.”
Seraphin and Friend both lost their jobs at the bureau last year after becoming whistleblowers.