On Monday, a judge decided that a trial will go forward for three men that are suspects in the plot to kidnap Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan.
The Detroit Free Press reported, “The men are three of the 14 said to have plotted to target Whitmer in response to her restrictions to slow the novel coronavirus. Six of the men were charged federally, and eight were charged at the state level over two counties.”
Judge Michael Klaeren found that there was not enough probable cause in the case against the three men to contain charges for communicating a threat of terrorism. The Detroit Free Press reported, “His ruling came at the conclusion of their preliminary examination in Jackson County’s 12th District Court.” Two of the three men were already facing charges. The third man, however, was included in a charge by request of the Michigan Attorney General’s office.
The hearing lasted several days and the testimony was held earlier this month. The men are still being charged with various offenses and will now stand trial.
“We must send a clear message that those who seek to do violence against our institutions of democracy and our elected representatives are not patriots, they are criminals,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a release, according to The Associated Press. “My office is pleased to see this case move forward and to have the opportunity to hold these men accountable for their actions.”
The Detroit Free Press reported that “charges for providing material support to a terrorist act, charges connected to gang membership, and charges of carrying a firearm in the commission of a felony were bound over to circuit court,” concluding the hearing.
The Associated Press reported that according to a court affidavit, two of the men “are founding members of the Wolverine Watchmen, which authorities described as ‘an anti-government, anti-law enforcement militia group.’
In his decision, Klaeren said that the men in the group were talking in a private group when they made the declarations that were called into question, which he stated is similar to a person thinking something, per the Detroit Free Press.
The lawyers of the three men made the case that the men had disassociated from people in the group who were creating problems, but Klaeren said there was enough evidence to show that they had taken specific steps to be involved further.
“The intent is so clear that these individuals were going to do something more than spout off threats to each other,” he said.
Klaeren said that the men were never completely detached or ignored by members.
“By analogy, I think these gentlemen are at the top of a mountain — make the snowball, start rolling it down the hill and at various times, maybe their effort diminishes or they leave, temporarily, but they started a very big snowball which wasn’t going to stop,” he said.
The Free Press reported that the Michigan Attorney General’s Office displayed its case against the men in March including “anti-government social media posts, at least one featuring a grenade, FBI testimony on surveillance of the men and their training and attendance of protests, and eyewitness testimony from an FBI informant.” The attorneys for the men have been fighting “to present those posts as just posts, distance the men from those in the federal case, and call into question the testimony from the FBI and the informant.”
Going into the hearing, one of the lawyers, Nicholas Somberg, said the state is throwing “everything at the board just to see what sticks.” When it was over, he reportedly said that the trial will be a David and Goliath situation with the state’s amount of resources to discover every little thing.
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