Updated Sep 15, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Three men found not guilty over plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Whitmer

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) speaking in National Harbor, Maryland, in May 2023.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) speaking in National Harbor, Maryland, in May 2023. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

A jury on Friday acquitted three men charged over a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) and violently overthrow the state government before the 2020 election, AP reports.

Why it matters: The three men, William Null, Michael Null and Eric Molitor, were the last of 14 people who faced charges in state or federal court over the scheme, which prosecutors alleged was an example of "domestic terrorism."

  • After the jury's verdicts Friday, nine of those charged were convicted and five were cleared.
  • The Null brothers and Molitor were found not guilty of providing support for a terrorist act and a weapon charge.

What they're saying: Michigan Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement that the verdict was not what the state had hoped for but that "the successes we have achieved throughout these cases, in both state and federal courts, sends a clear message that acts of domestic terrorism will not be tolerated in our state."

  • "We remain committed to combatting acts of domestic terrorism, and the proactive work on this joint action undoubtedly saved lives," Nessel said.

The big picture: Five people either pleaded guilty to or were found guilty of state charges for their roles in the plot. They are serving 131 years collectively in prison. Four men pleaded guilty to or were found guilty of federal charges.

  • Those found guilty of federal charges included Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr, who were found guilty in August 2022 for conspiring to kidnap and for conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction in the form of a bomb.
  • Fox, one of the ringleaders of the scheme, was sentenced to 16 years in prison, and co-leader Croft Jr. received a 19-year prison sentence.
  • Ty Garbin received the first prison sentence among those indicted, receiving six years after pleading guilty to conspiracy charges.
  • After the plot was thwarted, Whitmer said Trump was partly responsible for not condemning extremist groups and for encouraging protests in Michigan at the time.
  • Trump, in turn, criticized her for Michigan's coronavirus policies and demanded that she remove restrictions meant to prevent the virus' spread.
  • The men, who trained for the operation in a structure that resembled Whitmer's vacation home, began the plot in part over those policies.

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