Suspects in Gretchen Whitmer Kidnapping Plot Not Entrapped by FBI: Judge

Three men charged in connection to the 2020 plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer over alleged frustration with her COVID policies for the state were not "entrapped" by the FBI, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wilson denied a motion from the three men requesting the case be thrown out and said the FBI's actions, including the use of a confidential informant, did not "escalate" the alleged kidnapping plot, according to The Detroit News.

Paul Bellar, 23, Joseph Morrison, 27, and his father-in-law Pete Musico, 44, are three of the more than a dozen people charged in connection with the plot, and they are currently set to face trial in September, The Detroit News reported. They face charges of gang membership and providing support to a terrorist act, along with a felony firearm possession charge.

"I just cannot, in reviewing this matter, find that the government somehow pressured any one of these individuals to participate in anything or to get in line in this way of thinking," Wilson was quoted by The Detroit News. "That was the very reason we got the confidential informant in the very beginning, as soon as he joined the group and learned that they were talking about harming police officers and potentially politicians that he contacted the FBI because of his concern out of what potentially could happen."

Bellar, Morrison and Musico are accused of aiding six others facing federal charges who were allegedly conspiring to conduct the kidnapping plot, including two who have pleaded guilty and four who are set to face trial later this month, along with five others who have been charged in state court, The Detroit News reported.

The defense aimed to portray the FBI informant identified in court as "Dan" as someone who was an active participant, motivating others to continue planning, while he and the FBI have maintained that his role was to provide the FBI with access to the "Wolverine Watchmen" and have said he often de-escalated situations and discouraged violence, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The defense will likely continue to try to prove in the trial later this year that federal agents had a more prominent role in the planning of the alleged kidnapping plot than has been previously stated publicly, the Free Press reported.

The Detroit News also reported that the defense attorneys in the case and their clients were not surprised by Wilson's decision. The attorneys reiterated their confidence in the trial process and their feeling that a jury will not convict the men.

"You gotta be pretty courageous to dismiss that type of case," Nicholas Somberg, Morrison's attorney, said Tuesday, The News reported. "Obviously there's a huge investigation. It's national news. By dismissing based on entrapment, you're basically going against the governor herself, the attorney general and the FBI. "

"I'm still very confident in (the) trial. They're not charged with plotting. They're charged with providing material support to a plot. The evidence shows that there's no material support," Somberg added.

Update 3/1/22 6:55 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional context and information.

Gretchen Whitmer Michigan Kidnapping Entrapment
Three of the men charged in connection to the 2020 plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer were not "entrapped" by the FBI, a judge ruled Tuesday. Above, Whitmer speaks at an event on January 25 in Lansing, Michigan. Bill Pugliano/Getty Images