Michigan judge rejects entrapment motion to allow trial in alleged plot against governor

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March 1 (Reuters) - A judge in Michigan on Tuesday denied an entrapment motion made by defense lawyers for three men accused of conspiring to kidnap the state's governor, according to local media reports, meaning their trials may proceed.

Jackson County Circuit Judge Thomas Wilson's ruling will allow terrorism, gang affiliation and firearm charges to move forward against defendants Paul Bellar, Joseph Morrison and Pete Musico, the Detroit Free Press reported.

They are among 13 men facing federal and criminal charges stemming from a plot to abduct Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, threaten law enforcement and attack the state legislature. The alleged plot was motivated by opposition to state coronavirus restrictions and the 2020 presidential election in 2020.

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The court did not immediately respond to a request for more information from Reuters.

Defense attorneys filed the entrapment motion in an effort to get Wilson to throw out the charges. Attorneys sought to weaken the state's case against the defendants following testimony by an FBI informant on Monday, according to the Free Press.

An entrapment defense claims that a defendant only committed a crime due to coercion by a government actor.

The FBI said it uncovered the conspiracy by members of a militia group, which led to the charges in state and federal court.

In October 2020, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel unveiled state charges against seven men affiliated with the Wolverine Watchmen and accused of violating the state’s anti-terrorism act by conspiring to kidnap the governor and propagate violence. A total of 19 felony charges were filed.

The Wolverine Watchmen group had used social media to recruit members, and trained with firearms to prepare for the “boogaloo,” a term used in the militia movement for an uprising against the government or impending civil war, according to affidavits in support of the state charges.

In February, Kaleb Franks became the second person facing federal charges to agree to plead guilty. He is set to testify in a trial later this month.

Ty Garbin, who previously pleaded guilty to charges related to the plot, in August received a sentence of just over six years in prison after testifying against others associated with the Wolverine Watchmen militia.

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Reporting by Tyler Clifford; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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