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Prosecutors prepare evidence in the trial of three men accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan Governor Whitmer

BELLAIRE, Michigan (AP) — Prosecutors prepared Wednesday to present evidence against three men charged with plotting to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in what investigators described as an extremist plot to start a civil war. unleash.

Lawyers were scheduled to give opening arguments in the trial of Eric Molitor and brothers William Null and Michael Null, who were among 14 defendants charged weeks before the November 2020 election. Nine have been convicted in state or federal court, including four who pleaded guilty, while two were acquitted.

Investigators described them as members of paramilitary groups angry at Whitmer’s COVID-19 policies, which closed schools and restricted the economy.

Eleven women and seven men were selected Monday to serve as jurors in Republican Antrim County, a rural area popular with tourists. Whitmer has a vacation home in the village of Elk Rapids on Lake Michigan.

Evidence from previous trials suggested the plotters planned to kidnap the two-term Democratic governor there and blow up a bridge to prevent law enforcement from helping her. Informants and undercover FBI agents were in the group for months leading to arrests. Whitmer was not physically injured.

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Molitor, 39, and the Null brothers, both 41, are charged with providing material support to acts of terrorism – which can carry up to 20 years in prison – and illegal possession of firearms. They have pleaded not guilty.

Two other defendants, Brian Higgins and Shawn Fix, pleaded guilty to lesser charges earlier this year and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

The main conspiracy case was heard in federal court, where four men, including ringleaders Adam Fox and Barry Croft, were convicted. Two others were acquitted.

In addition, three men were convicted at trial in Jackson County, the training site for would-be militia members, and are serving long prison terms.

After the plot was thwarted, Whitmer blamed then-President Donald Trump, saying he had “brought comfort to those who spread fear, hatred and division.” Trump called the kidnapping plan a “fake deal” in August 2022.

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