Prosecutors will have another chance to wrap up closing arguments before jurors decide the kidnapping case

State prosecutors will get another chance Tuesday morning to present closing arguments in the trial of three Jackson County men accused of planning to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The trial is the latest test of whether prosecutors can convince jurors that a group of men committed crimes when they discussed a kidnapping and possible murder of the governor in 2020.

A total of 14 men were initially charged in connection with the plot. Six of them have been charged in federal court with conspiring to kidnap the governor. A jury found two of the men not guilty in a trial that ended this spring. Two other men were convicted in August, while two others pleaded guilty on their own.

The Jackson County trial is the first for men charged in state courts. The three men on trial were not central to planning for the spring and summer of 2020. But prosecutors say Paul Bellar, Joseph Morrison and Pete Musico offered crucial assistance to plan leader Adam Fox, who was one of the convicted men. in federal court.

As members of the so-called “Wolverine Watchmen” militia, the three men helped train Fox, which prosecutors say amounted to providing material support for an act of terrorism.

Defense attorneys said the formations were defensive in nature, as part of preparing for the possibility of disasters.

But Deputy Attorney General Sunita Doddamani told jurors they were not “preparers”, preparing for natural disasters.

“They didn’t store food, water and beans, did they?” Doddamani said during his closing arguments on Monday. ‘They didn’t offer courses in first aid or burns or CPR or anything like that – skills you might need for societal breakdown. They were preparing for war – war with the government.

Prosecutors also pointed to a protest at Michigan’s Capitol building in 2020 against pandemic emergency orders, in which Bellar, Musico and Morrison entered the building with assault rifles and posed outside the office. of the governor in the building. A Michigan state trooper said Whitmer was not in the building that day.

Kareem Johnson, attorney for Pete Musico, said the men were acting legally at the Capitol building.

“Even though they wanted the Wolverine Watchmen to keep their grievances to themselves, the law allowed them to protest that way,” Johnson said. “And the law doesn’t say you can only protest if you do it politely. You can shout. You can shout. That’s the point.”

The state capitol commission has since voted to ban people from openly carrying weapons in the building.

Prosecutors also showed messages between the men in which they called for violence against police officers and politicians, while mocking other militias they referred to as “Fudds,” a reference to Elmer Fudd.

In a message, Paul Bellar said the governor should be “dragged through the streets and hanged” for orders during the pandemic that has shut down businesses and schools.

But Bellar’s attorney, Leonard Ballard, said Bellar’s actions tell a different story. He distanced himself from Fox and left the state before kidnapping plans took shape. He then created his own chat group, Ballard said, in which he pushed back against the idea of ​​catching politicians.

“His mind is thinking, ‘eh you know, we said a lot of crazy stuff,’ which they did,” Ballard explained. “‘We put a lot of crazy stuff on the wire’, which he did. ‘I said a lot of crazy stuff here and there’, which he did. But he’s only accused of none of those things. None of that.”

Prosecutors will have another chance to rebut defense attorneys’ closing arguments when the trial resumes Tuesday morning. After that, Judge Thomas Wilson will instruct the jurors on the charges, and the jurors will begin deliberations.

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