Barry County prosecutor responds to sheriff’s statements on Whitmer kidnapping plot

Published: Oct. 13, 2020 at 10:59 AM EDT
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HASTINGS, Mich. (WILX) - On Thursday, Oct. 8, Michigan 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. According to the FBI the plan involved recruiting people into their group to forcibly kidnap the Governor, blowing up a bridge to slow police response, and ultimately start a civil.

The FBI also said the suspects were prepared to kill police officers in their plan.

Shortly after the arrests, footage of Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf sharing the stage at an event with one of the suspects was discovered. When asked about it, Sheriff Leaf gave comments on the charges that sparked controversy.

Leaf said, “It’s just a charge, and they say a ‘plot to kidnap’ and you got to remember that. Are they trying to kidnap? Because a lot of people are angry with the governor, and they want her arrested. So are they trying to arrest or was it a kidnap attempt? Because you can still, in Michigan, if it’s a felony, make a felony arrest.”

Now, Barry County Prosecutor Julie Pratt has sent out an official response to those comments.

The statement is included below:

"On behalf of the Barry County Prosecutor’s Office, we want to express our deepest sympathy for the public officials and their families, as well as the law enforcement officers affected by the alleged plot to kidnap and harm them. We are grateful to the US Attorney’s Office, Attorney General Dana Nessel, the FBI and Michigan State Police for their coordinated efforts to the keep the Governor, her family, the legislators, the staff of the Capitol, and fellow law enforcement safe. We commend officers for their thorough investigation. The message should be loud and clear: there is no place for crimes of violence in our society. This case is ongoing by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office and the US Attorney’s Office, and all defendants are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

As the chief law enforcement officer for Barry County, I must address the recent statement made by Sheriff Dar Leaf regarding citizen arrests. His statement should in no way be taken to represent the position of this office or the many selfless, hard-working members of the Barry County law enforcement community. Sheriff Leaf is not a lawyer, nor is he licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan, yet he inaccurately cited a law that is inapplicable and is meant to aid the very citizens and law enforcement he is sworn to protect. As a prosecutor, I find this concerning. There is no logical, legal or ethical basis for statements that defend or condone behavior that threatens the safety of Governor Whitmer, fellow law enforcement, or any other citizen in this country.

In Barry County, we have dedicated, fair and honest law enforcement officers in every department. Sheriff Leaf’s statements are his own. They do not and should not tarnish the honor and respect for law enforcement in Barry County and throughout the country. We as leaders should set an example for those that look to us for guidance, strength and hope. I ask for patience with the justice system, support for those whose lives were placed in danger, and that we continue to look out for one another."

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