Lawyer for Jackson-area man charged in Whitmer conspiracy optimistic after failed federal case

JACKSON, MI – Following the federal government’s failure to convict four men accused of conspiring to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, the stakes have been raised for similar trials in Michigan state courts. .

Lawyers for three Jackson-area men charged with participating in a conspiracy as their chances of getting a ‘not guilty’ verdict.

A trial for Joseph Morrison, Pete Musico and Paul Bellar is tentatively set to begin on Monday October 10, recently postponed to an earlier date set for early September.

Last week, a US District Court jury found Daniel Harris, 24, of Lake Orion, not guilty on four counts, including conspiracy to kidnap and conspiracy to use a weapon. mass destruction. Brandon Caserta, 34, of Canton, was found not guilty of conspiracy to kidnap in the same case.

The jury hung on charges of conspiracy against Barry Croft Jr., 46, of Bear, Delaware, Adam Fox, 38, of Wyoming, resulting in mistrials for those two.

RELATED: 2 men acquitted in alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer; Jury deadlocks on other

While the federal trial and Jackson’s upcoming trial are legally separate — involving different charges and different defendants — attorney Kareem Johnson said Caserta and Harris’ acquittal has made attorneys for the three local men more confident in their chances. to obtain a favorable judgment. Johnson is representing Pete Musico in the upcoming lawsuit.

Johnson compared the Grand Rapids trial verdict to a basketball game in which a teammate hits a 3-point shot, motivating the entire team to get back on defense.

“Those of us who saw all the evidence never hesitated (to believe) that it wasn’t a crime,” Johnson said. “Now that a jury of Michiganders has accepted this for at least two people, it validates our belief and motivates us to work hard and fight hard.”

Johnson is joined among defensive attorneys by attorneys Nicolas Somberg and Andrew Kirkpatrick, who represent Joseph Morrison and Paul Bellar, respectively.

Prosecutors declined to comment on the upcoming trial as the case is still active.

“As the state case remains open and ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment on the verdict in the federal case,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement to MLive.

RELATED: Political climate could jeopardize Michigan lawsuit against kidnapping suspects, analysts say

Jackson County Circuit Judge Thomas Wilson estimates the trial of the three men could last at least two weeks, likely longer.

The trio last appeared in court for an extended hearing in February, during which their lawyers argued the men had been framed by the FBI. Judge Wilson denied the motion on March 1.

The three are among several Michigan men affiliated with the Wolverine Watchmen who have been charged with conspiring to kill police officers, attacking the state Capitol in Lansing, kidnapping Whitmer and committing other violence. The FBI in “early 2020” began its investigation of the group after reviewing social media conversations that included discussions of the “violent overthrow” of the government and attacks on law enforcement. Charges were laid in October 2020.

Their co-defendants – Shawn Fix, Eric Molitor, Brian Higgins, Michael Null and William Null – are awaiting preliminary consideration in County Antrim. That hearing is set for August 29 in the 86th District Court.

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