Some of the people charged in the plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer shared the stage in May with a county sheriff during a protest against state coronavirus restrictions.
Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf is also in the hot seat for remarks made during an on-camera interview last week regarding those associated with the militia group, Wolverine Watchmen.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel slammed Leaf for his “dangerous” comments, tweeting Thursday: “As Michigan’s top law enforcement official, let me make this abundantly clear: Persons who are not sworn, licensed members of a law enforcement agency cannot and should not ‘arrest’ government offficials [sic] with whom they have disagreements.”
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Leaf inadvertently unleashed a tweetstorm Thursday by telling Fox 17 West Michigan: “It’s just a charge, and they say a ‘plot to kidnap’ and you got to remember that. Are they trying to kidnap? Because a lot of people are angry with the governor, and they want her arrested. So are they trying to arrest or was it a kidnap attempt? Because you can still, in Michigan, if it’s a felony, make a felony arrest.”
The sheriff was asked about months-old footage showing him speaking on stage during a protest. Michael and William Null, who are among those embroiled in the militia plot, stood behind him. The brothers are now facing state charges, accused of providing material support for terrorist acts, in addition to weapons charges.
In a follow-up interview with Fox 17 Friday, the sheriff said: “I don’t want anybody to think I’m sympathetic towards these charges, right? These are very, very serious charges.”
“I don’t want us to be trying it in the media, and we mess it up in the justice system somewhere, ’cause they can’t get a fair trial. It’s very important that we not mess any of this up ’cause one little technicality and maybe it goes out the door, and we need to be very, very cautious of that,” Leaf said.
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Meanwhile, at least two others involved in the alleged kidnapping plot have been identified as Marine veterans.
Joseph Morrison was a reservist who joined in March 2015 and was discharged as a lance corporal Thursday, said Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Joseph Butterfield.
Morrison is facing state charges that include threat of terrorism, gang membership, providing material support for terrorist acts and carrying or possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony. Butterfield said Morrison’s discharge from the military was not connected to the charges.
Daniel Harris, who is facing federal charges for conspiring to kidnap Whitmer, joined the Marines in June 2015 and was discharged four years later after serving with 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, based out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, the Marine Times reported.
According to the criminal complaint, Harris discussed attacking a Michigan State Police facility and plotted to kidnap Whitmer at her vacation home, allegedly writing in one encrypted online chatroom: “Have one person go to her house. Knock on the door and when she answers it just cap her.”
“We are aware of the circumstances surrounding the two individuals, and will assist the investigating authorities in any way we can,” Butterfield said in a statement. “The serious allegations are not a reflection of the Marine Corps, do not reflect the oath every Marine takes to support and defend the Constitution, and do not align with our core values of honor, courage, and commitment.”
Another suspect facing federal charges in connection to the plot, Brandon Caserta, appeared in a recently resurfaced video criticizing President Trump.
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In the video located by conservative music producer Robby Starbuck on YouTube and reposted to Twitter, Caserta says: “Trump is not your friend, dude. And it amazes me that people actually believe that, when he’s shown over and over and over again that he’s a tyrant. Every single person who works for the government is your enemy.”