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Gasps in court as 3 men acquitted on charges of plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer


Left: FILE – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer delivers her State of the State address to a joint session of the House and Senate, Jan. 25, 2023, at the state Capitol in Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis, File). Right, top to bottom: Booking photos provided by the Antrim County, Mich., Sheriff’s Office show Michael Null, William Null, and Eric Molitor. A jury acquitted William Null, his twin brother Michael Null and Eric Molitor on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023, in the last trial connected to a plan to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a scheme that was portrayed as an example of homegrown terrorism on the eve of the 2020 presidential election. (Antrim County Sheriff’s Office via AP, File)

A Michigan jury has acquitted three men accused of plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), closing the book on a yearslong effort to prosecute the botched plan that was revealed ahead of the 2020 election.

William Null, twin brother Michael Null, both 41, and Eric Molitor, 39, were found not guilty of weapons charges and providing support for a terrorist act. They were the last of eight individuals charged in October 2020 by the state with “planning and training for an operation to attack the state Capitol building and kidnap government officials, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.” Federal charges were also filed.

According to Michigan officials, members of the Wolverine Watchmen militia group, in addition to plotting to attack the state Capitol and kidnap the governor, were also asked to “identify the home addresses of law enforcement officers in order to target them; made threats of violence to instigate a civil war leading to societal collapse[.]”

According to prosecutors, the Null brothers and Molitor supported the plan by participating in military-style drills and traveling to see Whitmer’s northern Michigan vacation home. According to the Associated Press, jurors told Judge Charles Hamlyn that the evidence didn’t support a conviction for providing “material support” for a kidnapping plot, as the charges alleged.

The AP reported that gasps could be heard in the courtroom as the verdicts were read, and the men cried as they hugged their lawyers and supporters.

A spokesperson for Whitmer said that the verdicts are “disappointing.”

“A not guilty verdict on the plot to kidnap and kill Governor Whitmer in hopes of starting a civil war will further encourage and embolden radical extremists trying to sow discord and harm public officials or law enforcement,” JoAnne Hulls, Whitmer’s chief of staff, said in a statement emailed to Law&Crime. “Governor Whitmer ran for office because she loves Michigan. That’s why public servants do what they do. We will not let anyone stop us from getting things done. We will be relentless in our pursuit of making Michigan a better place to live and work. We appreciate the prosecutors and law enforcement officers for their work.”

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel echoed those sentiments in a separate statement.

While today’s verdicts are not what we hoped for, 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,” Nessel said. “We remain committed to combatting acts of domestic terrorism, and the proactive work on this joint action undoubtedly saved lives. I am grateful for the exemplary efforts of all involved at the local, state and federal level.”

Nessel’s statement notes that five individuals charged in the plot have either pleaded guilty or were found guilty on state charges, and are collectively serving up to 131 years behind bars.

In August 2022, a federal jury convicted Adam Fox and Barry Croft of being the ringleaders of the kidnapping plot. That guilty verdict came after two other co-defendants, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta, were acquitted of the charges in a previous trial. Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks both pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges and cooperated with prosecutors in the other federal trials.

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