3 Helpers Get Prison Time in Whitmer Kidnap Plot

They were convicted of helping a leader of the kidnap scheme in Michigan
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 15, 2022 11:50 AM CST
Three Get Lengthy Sentences in Whitmer Kidnap Plot
This combo of undated booking photos shows, from left, Paul Bellar, Joseph Morrison, and Pete Musico.   (Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center and Jackson County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)

A judge on Thursday handed down the longest prison terms so far in the plot to kidnap Michigan's governor, sentencing three men who forged an early alliance with a leader of the scheme before the FBI broke it up in 2020, per the AP. Joe Morrison, Pete Musico, and Paul Bellar did not have a direct role in the conspiracy but were members of a paramilitary group that trained with Adam Fox, who faces a possible life sentence in a separate case in federal court. The trio was convicted in October of providing material support for a terrorist act, which carries a maximum term of 20 years, and two other crimes. Musico was sentenced to a minimum of 12 years in prison, followed by Morrison at 10 years, and Bellar at seven. They will be eligible for parole after serving those terms.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer spoke in a recorded video before Jackson County Judge Thomas Wilson set the sentences, saying the actions of the three was a “threat to democracy itself.” Wilson presided over the first batch of convictions in state court, following the high-profile conspiracy convictions of four others in federal court. Fox and Barry Croft Jr. were described as captains of an incredible plan to snatch Whitmer from her vacation home, seeking to inspire a US civil war known as the “boogaloo.” Whitmer, a Democrat recently elected to a second term, was never physically harmed. Undercover FBI agents and informants were inside Fox’s group for months, and the scheme was broken up with 14 arrests in October 2020.

Musico, 45, Morrison, 28, and Bellar, 24, were members of the Wolverine Watchmen. The three held gun training with Fox in rural Jackson County and shared his disgust for Whitmer, police, and public officials, especially after COVID-19 restrictions disrupted the economy and triggered armed Capitol protests and anti-government belligerence. But defense attorneys argued that the trio had cut ties with Fox before the Whitmer plot came into focus by late summer of 2020. The three men also didn’t travel with Fox to look for the governor’s second home or participate in a key training session inside a “shoot house” in Luther, Michigan.

(More Gretchen Whitmer stories.)

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