Michigan sheriff says militia plot to kidnap Governor Whitmer may have been LEGAL as six face terror charges

A MICHIGAN sheriff has claimed the people involved in the alleged militia plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer may have been acting legally and planning to make a citizen’s arrest.

Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf appeared on stage at an anti-lockdown rally in May with William Null, who with his twin brother Michael Null are among the 13 charged in the kidnapping plot.

Leaf told WXMI-TV on Thursday: “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.”

Under state law private citizens are allowed to make an arrest if they witness a felony, or if a felony has been committed.

Leaf did not say what felony Governor Grechen Whitmer, 49, may have committed.

“It doesn't say if you are an elected office that you're exempt from that arrest,” Leaf added. 

“I have to look at it from that angle, and I'm hoping that's more what it is, in fact, these guys are innocent till proven guilty so I'm not even sure if they had any part of it.”

He said he knew the Null brothers from a number of anti-lockdown events and described them as being very nice and respectful.

“The two gentlemen that I know of from my county, were they involved in that? I don't know. They're innocent till proven guilty. And we really, really should be careful, trying to try them in the media,” Leaf said.

Leaf said though he was not involved in the federal investigation over the alleged kidnapping plot and said he didn’t know the details of the case.

“I haven't read everything up on it, I've got other duties to do, it wasn't our investigation,” he said. “I was shocked, did not see this coming with those guys, but still we can't convict them in the media here, they do have a right to a fair trial.”

Leaf’s comments though sparked a furious backlash, especially from Michigan’s attorney general Dana Nessel who described his comments as “dangerous”.

Nessel wrote in a Twitter comment: “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 officials with whom they have disagreements. These comments are dangerous.”

Who are the Wolverine Watchmen?

The group take their name from Michigan’s nickname – the Wolverine State.

Michigan has long been a hotbed of militia activity and they are fierce advocates of the Second Amendment – as well as the right to carry weapons in general.

The Wolverine Watchmen doesn't have much of an online presence.

It is not listed among the anti-government groups followed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist and hate groups. 

The Anti-Defamation League, which also monitors extremist groups, has no mention of the Wolverine Watchmen on its website.

Militias sprang up the aftermath of the Waco siege in 1993 when Federal agents were involved in a stand-off at a compound belonging to members of a millennial Christian sect.

The siege ended dramatically when fires consumed the compound, leaving some 75 people dead, including 25 children.

The authorities handling of the situation led to anti-government resentment and by spring 1995 almost every state had a militia group, says the ADL.

Many members of militia groups have been arrested since then, usually on weapons, explosives and conspiracy charges. 

In May, armed militiamen gathered outside Michigan's Capitol to rally against Governor Gretchen Whitmer's pandemic executive orders.

Leaf later tried to clarify his remarks, saying: “I don't want anybody to think I'm sympathetic toward these charges, right?

“These are very, very serious charges. What I don't want is to be trying it in the media, and we mess it up in the justice system somewhere, because they can't get a fair trial.”

Asked if he was defending the alleged actions of the defendants, he responded: “Absolutely not, I'm defending the law.”

The FBI revealed on Thursday that a far-right militia group – known as the Wolverine Watchmen – had made an alleged plan to kidnap Whitmer and start a civil war.

They are accused of conspiring to abduct Governor Whitmer, a Democrat who has clashed with President Donald Trump over her Covid-19 public health orders.

Prosecutors say the men also sought to target law enforcement officers for intimidation, made threats of violence to incite civil unrest, and trained for an operation to storm the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing and take government officials hostage.

Seven of the men were part of the militia group, officials said.

The Null brothers are included in the group of seven, Nessel said.

They both face charges of providing material support for terrorist acts and carrying a firearm in possession of a felony.

Meanwhile, Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, Brandon Casert and Ty Garbin – from Michigan and Delaware – face charges with plotting the kidnap.

Seven additional men – The Null brothers, Paul Bellar, Shawn Fix, Eric Molitor, Pete Musico and Joseph Morrison – face terrorism and gang-related charges in connection with the alleged kidnapping plot.

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