The three men who were convicted of providing material support for a terrorist act in connection with a 2020 plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer were sentenced in a Jackson County courtroom on Thursday, with a minimum of seven years — the lightest of the three punishments — doled out to Paul Bellar.
Joe Morrison was sentenced to a minimum of 10 years behind bars, and Pete Musico received a minimum of 12 years, according to Fox News.
Prior to being sentenced, the trio of men listened to a recorded impact statement from Whitmer, who never misses an opportunity to be theatrical.
“A conspiracy to kidnap and kill a sitting governor in the state of Michigan is a threat to democracy itself,” she stated.
Suspects in Whitmer kidnapping plot say FBI invented the crime, want charges dismissed https://t.co/hRc9IfrbEM
— American Wire News (@americanwire_) December 28, 2021
“This kind of violent extremism has become disturbingly common. Online radicalization is spiraling into real-life action,” she continued. “Political leaders and their families on both sides of the aisle are being threatened and attacked.”
“Unfortunately, these defendants have not accepted responsibility for their actions,” Whitmer said. “If you want my advice on what to do with men like this, it’s simple. Impose a sentence that meets the gravity of the damage they have done to our democracy.”
The governor, who was not injured in the foiled plot, claimed she now lives in a state of constant worry.
“I worry about the safety of everyone near me when I am in public,” she said. “I am reluctant to share too much because I worry that it could endanger a loved one, a staff member, a police officer on my security detail.”
The three men were part of a rural Jackson County group called the Wolverine Watchmen, which state prosecutors called a criminal enterprise.
The group was led by Adam Fox, but, as American Wire News previously reported, it had been infiltrated by FBI informants who allegedly went as far as sharing a hotel room and smoking weed with Barry Croft, Jr., another defendant charged in the plot, which was purportedly inspired by Whitmer’s draconian COVID-19 lockdowns.
FBI informants involved in Whitmer kidnapping debacle allegedly smoked weed, shared hotel room with accused plotter https://t.co/CGoNzXZe6i
— American Wire News (@americanwire_) August 13, 2022
In August, FBI Director Christopher Wray admitted to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) that the agent who headed the Detroit Field Office during the Whitmer debacle was given a promotion to the assistant director in charge of the Washington D.C. office, just in time for the January 6 investigation.
FBI director admits agent whose office ran botched Whitmer kidnapping case got a promotion https://t.co/TnY9RFmoKO
— American Wire News (@americanwire_) August 5, 2022
Croft, Fox, and the other defendants in the kidnapping case had accused the agency of entrapment.
Defense attorneys for the three newly sentenced convicts claim that, by the time the kidnapping plot came into focus late in the summer of 2020, they had distanced themselves from Fox. They didn’t accompany Fox on a trip to case Whitmer’s vacation home, and they weren’t inside a “shoot house” during one of the key weekend training sessions.
With the help of FBI agents who had for months been posing as members of the group and who had allegedly egged the plot on, 14 arrests were made in October 2022.
During his sentencing, Morrison asked for the governor’s forgiveness.
“Your honor, I am not the boogeyman that the prosecution is trying to claim that I am,” he told the judge. “I’m a father, I am a husband, I am a friend and a neighbor. I made mistakes. I acted recklessly and carelessly with my words. I got around the wrong people, I fed off their energy.”
“I send my sincere apology to the governor, to her family and all law enforcement who were affected by what conspired with this whole thing… if I could, your honor, I’d take it all back,” he said.
Meanwhile, in a Grand Rapids federal court, Fox and Croft a readying themselves to hear their punishments after being convicted on two counts of conspiracy and attempts to use a weapon of mass destruction.
In two weeks, the duo could receive life sentences.
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