Last trial in Governor Whitmer kidnapping plot heads to closing arguments
Sep 12, 2023, 9:10 PM
(Jan-Michael Stump/Traverse City Record-Eagle via AP)
A jury is set to hear closing arguments Wednesday in the fourth trial connected to a scheme by anti-government extremists to kidnap Michigan’s governor and inspire a civil war just ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
William Null, twin brother Michael Null and Eric Molitor are the last of 14 men to face charges in state or federal court.
They were not among the main group of six people charged with a kidnapping conspiracy in federal court. Instead, they’re accused of having a supporting role by participating in militia-style drills and taking rides to see Whitmer’s vacation home in Antrim County.
Molitor, 39, and William Null, 41, acknowledged the road trips but told jurors they didn’t really understand the purpose. William Null said he was regularly exposed to “crazy talk” by pot-puffing plot leaders Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. and didn’t think it was too serious until conversations turned to explosives.
Michael Null, 41, declined to testify in his own defense but has denied wrongdoing through his attorney. The trial was held in Bellaire, Michigan, 250 miles (402 kilometers) northwest of Detroit.
William Null said he probably should have contacted police at some point. But during tense cross-examination, prosecutor William Rollstin reminded him of his anti-government views on social media and disgust for Whitmer, especially her COVID-19 restrictions.
“You’re going to meet with a bunch of terrorists, aren’t you?” Rollstin said to Null, referring to a summer 2020 meeting of militia leaders at a Dublin, Ohio, hotel.
The government’s main witnesses were an FBI agent and Dan Chappel, an Army veteran who agreed to work as an informant. He has been a critical witness at every trial, describing hours of secretly recorded conversations and countless text messages.
Informants and undercover FBI agents were inside the group for months before arrests ended the scheme in October 2020. Whitmer was not physically harmed.
Nine men have been convicted, either through guilty pleas or at three trials, while two have been acquitted.
After the plot was thwarted, Whitmer blamed then-President Donald Trump, saying he had given “comfort to those who spread fear and hatred and division.” Out of office, Trump called the kidnapping plan a “fake deal” in 2022.
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