(Source: MIRS.news, Published 09/15/2023) Three men and their family members cried as the jury foreperson announced Friday that each defendant was not guilty of providing material support to a terrorist act in connection with the plot to kidnap and kill Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
William Null, his twin Michael Null and Eric Molitor – the last of 14 men charged in state or federal court – were also acquitted of a related weapons charge.
“A not guilty verdict is disappointing,” Whitmer’s chief of staff JoAnne Huls said in a statement. “A not guilty verdict on the plot to kidnap and kill Gov. 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.”
Attorney General Dana Nessel said the verdicts weren’t what her office hoped for, but “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.”
Efforts to speak with the Null brothers' attorneys, Damian Nunzio and Thomas Siver, were not successful. The latter's emotions, however, were obvious as he cried along with his client once the verdicts were announced.
Molitor's attorney, William Barnett, said his client nearly collapsed as the verdict was read and relief washed over him to have the three-year ordeal behind him.
“We're disappointed we had to go through this whole process,” Barnett said, noting that Molitor hopes to get involved in his local community by running for office. “It was so painfully obvious to the jury that they didn't get past square one. … They were tried guilty by association. …
“Terrorism is a terrible thing, but convicting an innocent person doesn't make anyone safer,” the attorney noted.
The state levied 20 felony charges against eight individuals, who were alleged to have engaged in the planning and training for either an attack on the state Capitol or to kidnap government officials and target others, including possibly Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, according to the 14 days of testimony.
Three of the state defendants were convicted in Jackson County while two pleaded guilty in Antrim County before trial.
Two men were acquitted in federal court while two – Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. – were convicted after a second jury trial and two men pleaded guilty.
The prosecution argued the men decided to go “operational” when they pivoted from attending rallies during 2020 to assisting ringleaders Fox and Croft with their plot to kidnap Whitmer from her vacation home.
The Null brothers, the prosecution argued, participated in the field training exercise and traveled to Whitmer’s vacation home in northern Michigan. Some group members wanted a second civil war, according to testimony.
The defense acknowledged their clients were frustrated with COVID restrictions or societal issues occurring at the time, including protests over the killing of George Floyd. But, they countered that it was the undercover informant and undercover FBI agent who spearheaded the plot.
Attorneys for each man argued there was no direct evidence showing their clients intended to help in the plot and that their presence during the surveillance of Whitmer’s home and during training did not equal guilt.
The prosecution also argued the planned attack began when a group of anti-government extremists, including Fox, Croft and William Null, met in Dublin, Ohio, in summer 2020. Their beliefs were also fueled by COVID-19 restrictions, according to the prosecution.
Molitor, 39, and William Null, 41, both testified, admitting they attended training and were along for the ride near the vacation home.
However, William Null testified that he was just going for a car ride and he said he and his brother were not interested once the talk turned to using explosives.
Molitor testified that Whitmer was not in any “real danger,” and that he was “scared” by Fox’s plan, but played along because he didn’t know how Fox or the others would react.
Barnett said he believes the jury was put off by the prosecution's decision to show short clips that painted the defendants in a bad light. In one clip, the jury learned Molitor made a slow-motion video as the group passed Whitmer's home, but Barnett played a longer version that shows the prosecution didn't play Molitor's reaction.
“I just wanted to get home to my kids,” Molitor testified, explaining why he made the video. “They're talking about extreme, extreme stuff. Do what you gotta do to get home.”