Checking In On the Whitmer Kidnapping Trials

Three more men are heading to prison for their roles in the plot to kidnap and kill Governor Gretchen Whitmer in 2020.

Pete Musico, Joseph Morrison and Paul Bellar were found guilty for aiding a terrorist, being a part of a gang and felony fire arm charges. This is just the first of two state trials and follows two federal trials on this plot.

This verdict in Jackson County follows two federal trials that saw two men plead guilty, two men freed of all charges and two more found guilty. In total, a mixed bag of results for the same plot.Whitmer Trials Check In Vsv 10 27 2200 01 13 21still001

“It just shows you that every single case is different and you can have very similar arguments, you can have very similar defenses but you have different juries and that could be a big impact,” said Matthew Schneider, former US Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. “With that it’s interesting going into the next trials, next phases, is everybody will be very interested on both sides to find out exactly who the jurors are. They will want to make sure that they’re asking them all the appropriate questions.”

The saga is not done. Five more men, William and Michael Null, Brian Higgins, Shawn Fix and Eric Molitor are facing similar charges in Antrim County.

They may not set a trial date until next year.

“You can be very certain that the attorneys, for anyone else left in these cases, paid close attention to what happened in federal court and in the state court,” said Schneider.

They have multiple examples of what has worked in court and what hasn’t.

“If they pick up on the fact that, maybe you know issues that weren’t raised in that state trial that could’ve been raised or could’ve been effective,” said Schneider, “Those defense counselors are very likely to bring those issues up.”

The fact the trials are separate but connected also impacts the public’s view of the trials. Freelance journalist Eric vanDussen sat in on the Jackson County trial and was denied the ability to see the evidence by the Attorney General’s office.

“They said we’re withholding the rest of the exhibits because it would adversely affect their right to a fair trial,” said vanDussen.

Much of the evidence is the same, and seeing three men already found guilty on those arguments may make the next trial unneeded.

“I’ve seen it in many many cases,” said Schneider, “Where once they have a couple trials, then people decide, ‘I don’t want to go through that,’ and they plead guilty.”

Musico, Morrison and Bellar are scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 15.