Trial begins for three men accused in plot to kidnap Michigan governor

(Reuters) – A trial for the last three men to face charges in a foiled plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer began on Wednesday in state court, where they are accused of terrorism and firearms crimes.

Eric Molitor and brothers William and Michael Null each face one count of providing material support for terrorist acts and carrying or possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony.

The Michigan men face up to 20 years in prison if they are convicted of the charges. All three have pleaded not guilty.

“We follow the same rules, the same rules of decorum, the same rules of evidence. … This will not be a circus,” Judge Charles Hamlyn told the court in Antrim County, Michigan, before opening statements by attorneys.

Prosecutors and lawyers for the defendants were not immediately available for comment.

The three defendants are the last of more than a dozen men to face federal and state charges in the kidnapping conspiracy. Most have either been convicted or pleaded guilty.

The group of men were accused of taking part in an elaborate plot to abduct the governor from her vacation home, then put her on trial for treason. They hoped the kidnapping would lead to a violent uprising and instigate a civil war, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors say the plan was motivated by grievances related to the 2020 presidential election and opposition to state COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the Democratic governor.

In December in federal court, the group’s leader, Adam Fox, was sentenced to 16 years in prison while his codefendant, Barry Croft Jr., received a 19-year prison sentence. Both men were convicted of domestic terrorism, conspiracy to kidnap and other crimes in a federal trial.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; editing by Jonathan Oatis)