Three men who aided a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) received prison sentences of at least seven years on Thursday, capping legal proceedings that highlighted the growing reach of right-wing extremism and political violence.
The three men, along with two others who had been convicted in an earlier trial, were members of the Wolverine Watchmen, a far-right paramilitary group.
Morrison, Bellar, and Musico were charged under the state “anti-terrorism act” enacted shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. They faced up to 20 years in prison for the terrorism and gang charges and up to two years for the firearm conviction.
But Judge Thomas Wilson handed down different minimum sentences for each man.
Morrison, who was considered the group’s “commander,” received a sentence of 10 to 42 years in prison. Musico, who was Morrison’s father-in-law, received 12 to 42 years in prison. The group’s “field training” exercises took place at their family’s home in Jackson County.
Wilson gave Bellar, who prosecutors allege was the group’s “sergeant,” the lightest sentence. He faces a prison sentence of at least seven years.
In a statement, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, said she was pleased with the sentences.
“The defendants’ ultimate goals were to kill police and elected officials and kidnap the Governor of Michigan,” Nessel said. “These extraordinarily violent ends, coupled with the unequivocal conviction from the jury, demand the maximum sentence.”
Whitmer, who in November was reelected to a second term, did not immediately comment on the sentences. But in October, after the trio was convicted, Whitmer said the “verdicts were further proof that violence and threats have no place in our politics.”
“No threat, no plot, no rhetoric will break my belief in the goodness and decency of our people,” the governor posted at the time on social media.
In all, more than than a dozen people have been arrested in connection with the plot to kidnap Whitmer, which prosecutors said was fueled by anti-government extremism and anger at steps that the governor took to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
In August, two other men, Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr., were convicted on federal charges of plotting to kidnap Whitmer. Prosecutors said they planned to capture Whitmer at her vacation home, detonate a bridge and ignite an armed rebellion ahead of the 2020 presidential election.