Three militia members who plotted to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer sentenced to years in prison

(JACKSON COUNTY, Mich.) — Three members of a militia group who were convicted of several crimes in relation to a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer were given yearslong prison sentences Thursday.

The three men — Pete Musico, Joseph Morrison and Paul Bellar — were convicted in October of providing material support for a terrorist act, the most serious charge, as well as firearms charges and membership in a gang. The charge of support for a terrorist act carried a maximum of 20 years in prison.

Pete Musico, 44, who was the first person to receive his sentencing, was given at least 12 years in prison. Through tears, Musico said before the sentencing he had a “lapse in judgment.” He was sentenced to at least five years for the support of a terrorist act charge and membership in a gang, as well as two years for the firearms charge — all which will run consecutively.

Musico’s son-in-law Joseph Morrison, 28, was sentenced to at least 10 years in prison. He was given at least four years for the two most serious charges and then two years for the weapons charge, all which will run consecutively.

Paul Bellar, 23, received at least seven years in prison. He was given two five-year prison sentences each for support of a terrorist act and gang membership, but will serve them concurrently. He will then serve a two-year sentence for the weapons charge.

“First, I would like to apologize for the highly inappropriate comments that I made in the past,” Bellar said in court before his sentencing. “I would like to apologize to the governor. I am very embarrassed by the comments that I made.”

Whitmer provided taped testimony to the court prior to the sentencing.

Morrison, Musico and Bellar were part of a militia group known as the Wolverine Watchmen, which took part in armed protests at the Michigan state capitol, largely over Whitmer’s strict COVID-19 shutdowns. All three men were photographed at the Capitol, holding rifles, outside Whitmer’s office, during one of those protests in April 2020.

A member of the group eventually turned into a confidential informant in March 2020 after talk turned to harming law enforcement and eventually public officials. Fourteen members of the self-styled militia were arrested in October 2020 and news of the plot to kidnap Whitmer emerged.

On the group’s Facebook page, Bellar “advocated for Governor Whitmer being ‘dragged to the streets and hung’ and threatened to toss a Molotov cocktail at her home after the Governor extended shutdown orders related to the COVID pandemic,” according to prosecutors. Musico allegedly discussed finding the addresses of police officers and killing them and attacking politicians, including Whitmer, in their home, according to prosecutors.

Morrison posted on social media about “coming for” Whitmer, while also talking about trying to “catch that b—- as she came out the emergency exit” during the April 2020 armed protest, per prosecutors.

Other militia members, Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr., were convicted in federal court of the most serious charges in a retrial in August after a previous trial ended in a hung jury. Fox and Croft face life in prison in sentencing hearings on Dec. 27 and Dec. 28, respectively. A judge rejected a request for a retrial last month.

Fox and Croft “intended to kidnap Governor Whitmer from her vacation cottage near Elk Rapids, Michigan” and use “destructive devices to facilitate their plot by harming and hindering the governor’s security detail and any responding law enforcement officers,” according to the Department of Justice.

Two other members of the militia — Kaleb Franks and Ty Garbin — pleaded guilty to lesser charges and agreed to testify in the federal case against Fox and Croft.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.