Three men connected with a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer during the height of the 2020 COVID lockdown were found not guilty on Friday following a two-week trial. The three men, William Null, Michael Null, and Eric Molitor, were the last of the 14 men arrested in connection with the plot.
In October 2020, as the COVID-19 lockdowns dragged on and civil unrest from George Floyd’s death and the upcoming election, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced the discovery of a plot to abduct Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Whitmer had developed a reputation as either one of America’s most dedicated public servants or one of its worst and most hypocritical lockdown tyrants, depending on who gave the assessment. Business owners faced fines and prison time for defying public health orders and travel to the state’s upper peninsula was banned—but even so, 2 million Michiganders still contracted COVID-19.
As outrage against Whitmer’s policies spread, the FBI claimed to have discovered a plan to snatch the governor from her vacation home, try her in a kind of civilian court, and force her to lift the lockdown. The plan may also have involved an intent to harm her further, although reports conflicted at the time. Roughly half of the men arrested belonged to the para-military militia group “Wolverine Watchmen.” The FBI said that confidential informants had made them aware of the plot, allowing them to intervene before the militia could take action.
Six of the defendants, including the three tried on Friday, were charged in federal court, while the others faced state charges. Nine were convicted of charges related to the kidnapping and five have been cleared.
The Null brothers, 41, and Eric Molitor, 39, all pled not guilty to charges of providing material support for terrorist acts and illegally possessing firearms. Their acquittal came after less than a day of jury deliberations.
Since the time of the arrests, many—including the defendants themselves—have claimed that the plan for the kidnapping was not a homegrown terrorist plot but rather a setup orchestrated entirely by the FBI. For example, two known FBI informants were reportedly paid tens of thousands of dollars apiece to organize key events, recruit members into the conspiracy, and provide the Feds with wiretaps. Other FBI operatives infiltrated the militia and accompanied members on surveillance drives around Whitmer’s home. Still another informant, identified as Iraq veteran Dan Chapel, became the group’s second-in-command and laid the groundwork for much of the plan.
In the wake of the arrest, Whitmer laid the blame on then-President Donald Trump, saying that he had spent months “denying science, ignoring his own health experts, stoking distrust, fomenting anger and giving comfort to those who spread fear and hatred and division.”
Similarly, Joe Biden, a presidential candidate at the time, cited the incident as an example of Trump’s “tolerance of hate, vengeance, and lawlessness.” Michigan was a major swing state in the 2020 election, falling to Biden by a narrow—and highly contested—margin.