In a blow to crucial constitutional rights, three more of the 14 men entrapped by FBI agents in an alleged 2020 “plot” to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for her imposition of vaccine mandates have been framed up and convicted and face up to 20 years in prison.
A Jackson County, Michigan, circuit court jury Oct. 26 found 28-year-old Joseph Morrison, 44-year-old Pete Musico and 23-year-old Paul Bellar guilty of firearm violations, providing support for terrorism and for belonging to an illegal gang.
Undercover FBI snitches were decisive in attempting to lead the kidnap plan into action, but failed. No attack was carried out by the group. In fact, FBI snitch Daniel Chappel at one point told his FBI handlers he was wasting his time as the group had no serious plan. He was told to try harder. Another FBI-run spy tried to provide the group with explosives.
At the trial, Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wilson cut across basic rights of the defendants, ruling defense attorneys could not introduce entrapment by the government as a defense. He also ruled jurors couldn’t be told that two other defendants, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta, were acquitted at an earlier trial. They might think, the judge said, “Well, if they got off, why shouldn’t these guys get off.”
Prosecutors told the jurors that though the men were not accused of committing a terrorist act themselves, their actions helped support a plot, which amounted to a crime.
Morrison and Musico, his father-in-law, were charged with firearms violations after allowing people to conduct target practice on their property. Prosecutors said Bellar provided ammunition, and thought up tactical maneuvers and codes, a charge the government put forward after Bellar’s former landlord called the FBI and said he found a notebook with entries that looked to him like code words, such as “dogs got ticks.”
All three were charged with belonging to an “illegal gang,” the Wolverine Watchmen, a group prosecutors said was a “criminal enterprise” that met and talked about such things as attacking politicians and police officers. Kareem Johnson, a lawyer for Musico, said his client’s actions were speech protected by the First and Second Amendments and that he believed Musico was being punished for his political beliefs. “In this country, you are allowed to talk the talk,” he told the jury, “but you only get convicted if you walk the walk.”
At the trial the FBI introduced dozens of cherry-picked social media posts made by the three, posts the defense explained were presented out of context and out of order. The three will be sentenced in December.
Five more men, William and Michael Null, Brian Higgins, Shawn Fix and Eric Molitor are facing similar frame-up charges in Michigan’s Antrim County court.
When Harris and Caserta were found not guilty in April, the jury deadlocked on charges against Adam Fox and Barry Croft. The government put them on trial in August for a second time on the same charges, a violation of the Fifth Amendment that prohibits the government from prosecuting or punishing someone multiple times for the same incident.
This time they were convicted of “conspiracy,” a charged used by the government when they want to nail someone but have no evidence that they actually did anything illegal. They face up to life in prison and will also be sentenced in December.
Two others of those entrapped by the FBI, Kabeb Franks and Ty Garbin, were pressured into plea bargaining as guilty and testifying for the prosecution. In return, Garbin’s sentence was reduced to 30 months in October and prosecutors are recommending the same for Franks.