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13 charged in plot to kidnap Governor Whitmer, target state government

7 charged under Michigan’s Anti-Terrorism Act as Part of Massive Joint Law Enforcement Investigation
Published: Oct. 8, 2020 at 11:59 AM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Attorney General Dana Nessel announced charges against several people for their alleged involvement in a plot to violently overthrow the government, including plans to kidnap Michigan’s governor.

Domestic terrorism

According to AG Nessel, thirteen people have been arrested and at least 7 under federal charges with conspiring to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Each faces up to life in prison if convicted.

The investigation began earlier this year. The alleged plot involved contacting members of a Michigan militia. In the affidavit an FBI agent wrote that “The group decided they needed to increase their numbers and encouraged each other to talk to their neighbors and spread their message.”

According to the complaint, a Michigan-based militia group attempted to recruit members for the operation through social media, with their plan that included storming the Capitol building in Lansing and take hostages, including the Governor.

Named in the complaint are Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta.

They are all Michigan residents except Croft. He is from Delaware. The group is also is accused of plotting to kidnap the Governor from her vacation home, which is located in Antrim County.

“All of us can disagree about politics, but those disagreements should never, ever result in violence,” stated U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider. “The allegations in this complaint are deeply disturbing. We owe our thanks to the men and women of law enforcement who uncovered this plot and have worked so hard to protect Governor Whitmer.”

Federal agents say around 15 people met in Dublin, Ohio back in June to discuss creating a society that followed the U.S Bill of Rights and where they could be self-sufficient. They discussed several ways from peaceful endeavors to violent actions. They talked specifically about Michigan and Governor Whitmer. Many in the group talked about “murdering tyrants and taking a sitting governor.”

The investigation

For the past few months, the group held several meetings- many of which were recorded by an FBI informant. Officials say they have evidence of dozens of conversations that claim members of the group took photographs and video of the governors vacation home. During the surveillance operation, Fox was allegedly heard saying, “We ain’t gonna let ‘em burn our (expletive) state down. I don’t give a (expletive) if there’s only 20 or 30 of us, dude, we’ll go out there and use deadly force.” On several occasions, they discussed the intent and desire to kidnap the Governor before November 3rd, the date of the national election, according to court documents.

According to FBI, Garbin offered to paint his personal boat black so they could be on the lake where Whitmer’s vacation home was located. In a text message the same day, Garbin suggested blowing up a bridge, so it would slow down police response, according to court documents. In other conversations as part of the undercover recording, Croft and Fox discussed how they inspected the M-31 bridge for a place to put the explosives.

Fox allegedly took a picture of the bridge’s support structure.

Just a short time ago, Nessel added charges against 7 new suspects under Michigan’s Anti-Terrorism Act. Those stem from several raids including one in Hartland Township on Wednesday night.

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 leading to societal collapse; and engaged in the planning and training for an operation to attack the state Capitol building and kidnap government officials, including Gov. Whitmer.

“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.”

Charges

State-level charges have been filed for multiple suspects involved in the Governor Whitmer kidnapping plot.

Those suspects have been identified. The charges are:

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.

Null and Molitor were arraigned Thursday before Antrim County Magistrate Jessica Allmand. Their bond was set for $250,000. Their probable cause conferences are set for Oct. 14 at 1 p.m. Their preliminary exams are scheduled for Oct. 21.

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

Pictured from left to right, beginning at the top: Daniel Harris, Kaleb Franks, Michael Null,...
Pictured from left to right, beginning at the top: Daniel Harris, Kaleb Franks, Michael Null, William Null, Joseph Morrison, Brandon Caserta, Ty Garbin, Eric Molitor, Paul Bellar, Peter Musico, Shawn Fix, Adam Fox and Barry Croft.(WILX)

Here are the affidavits:

Click here to view the charging documents for Bellar.

Click here to view the charging documents for Fix.

Click here to view the charging documents for Molitor.

Click here to view the charging documents for Morrison.

Click here to view the charging documents for Musico.

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