Last Friday’s not-guilty verdicts on the last three alleged Gov. Gretchen Whitmer kidnapping conspirators closed the book on the first round of judicial action against all 14 charged men.
Federal and state prosecutors recorded four plea deals, five convictions by trial and five acquittals. Final Score: Prosecution 9, Defense 5.
Assorted appeals still need to work their way through the system, but it’s hard to see the convictions not holding up.
In the end, this loose association of anti-government ideologues who worked out their frustrations over the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions by shooting their mouths off, sporting their guns and pretending like they were leading a revolution are all paying a price, either behind bars or through a tarnished reputation.
They’ll go down like the Jan. 6, 2021, rioters. These fools thought they were doing something by trashing the Capitol and momentarily chasing members of the U.S. House and Senate out of the chambers. Instead, they embarrassed the country and earned themselves criminal penalties.
Likewise, the 14 conspirators (in the best-case scenario) were only pretending to live out their frustrations. Whitmer took away their freedoms. They were going to take away hers.
Were they serious? Were they not? A federal jury in Grand Rapids said yes. A jury in Antrim County said no.
The players in those two trials were much different. The federal government wanted to prosecute the ringleaders of the bunch: Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr.
It took them a couple of trials, but the feds got them.
The three let off the hook Friday — Michael Null, William Null and Eric Molitor — were left for state Attorney General Dana Nessel to prosecute. They may have been found guilty by juries in Oakland or Ingham County. In rural, pro-Trump Antrim County, where cynicism for higher-ranking public officials is high? The answer was going to be different.
Although she wasn’t successful with the Null brothers and Molitor, Nessel had to do what she did to at least send the message.
Like the crackpots who call in bomb threats or death threats to our elected officials, wild, loose talk about physically hurting a public official can’t be tolerated.
It’s quite possible the Nulls and Molitor wanted out of the scheme (as they said in the trial) when they learned the plot became more serious than they thought.
But maybe they’re saying that now because they were caught. They didn’t want to go to the police with their information for their own personal reasons.
I get it. You don’t want to be a nark. You also don’t want the state’s highest elected official to be killed because you kept your mouth shut.
Nessel is frustrated. According to The Detroit News, she told a private gathering that the Antrim jury was “seemingly not so concerned” about the plot. I’m sure the jury was concerned. The prosecution got caught not providing enough context to some of the accuseds’ recorded comments, which planted seeds of doubt.
One of those moments included Molitor’s taking a slow-motion video of Whitmer’s personal vacation home Up North on a surveillance trip in 2020. What the prosecution did not show — but the defense did — was Molitor’s reason for doing as Fox ordered: “I just wanted to get home to my kids.”
Molitor got in so deep, he was scared he’d become a victim? It’s possible, I guess.
Nonetheless, Nessel proved the point in charging all of the accused conspirators: If you’re not going to turn down the rhetoric, there will be charges. We can’t take the chance that you’re not serious.
What if, God forbid, they had been serious? What if they had succeeded? The government knew of the plot and didn’t do anything?
How would that look? Could you imagine living with yourself knowing you could have prevented something by standing up and you didn’t?
Nessel has made the point other prosecutors need to make. If you don’t tone down the threats, we’ll tone it down for you.
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