Final two sentences handed down in plot to kidnap and kill Whitmer
A year after they were bound over to face trial, the last two remaining defendants connected to the plot to kidnap and assassinate Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer were sentenced to prison Thursday.
Shawn Fix of Belleville, who pled guilty in June to one count of providing material support for a terroristic act, was ordered to serve 36 to 240 months in prison by Judge Charles Hamlyn of the 13th Circuit Court in Antrim County. A felony firearm count was previously dropped.
Also sentenced was Brian Higgins of Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, who entered a guilty plea to one count of attempting to provide material support for terrorism, and will serve 36 months’ probation with a credit for 217 days of jail time. As a result of his plea agreement, Higgins agreed to testify against the other defendants regarding their role in the plot.
Three others – Joe Morrison and Pete Musico, both of Munith, and Paul Bellar of Milford – were previously found guilty by a Jackson County jury of providing “material support” for a terrorist act and sentenced to various terms of between 4 and 5 to 20 years in prison. They were also convicted of felony firearms and membership in a gang.
That “gang,” according to prosecutors, was a paramilitary group known as the Wolverine Watchmen, which came to the attention of federal law enforcement after a member of the group, U.S. Army veteran Dan Chappel, agreed to become an informant after discussion among the plotters began to include explicit plans to attack and kill police who would oppose them.
The FBI arrested the plotters in October 2020 after authorities say they discussed raising $4,000 to purchase the explosive to blow up the bridge near Whitmer’s vacation home.
In all, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel charged 20 state felonies against eight individuals for being involved in the plot. Three of those defendants, twin brothers William and Michael Null, and Eric Molitor, were found not guilty in September of providing support for a terrorist act and a weapon charge. Regardless, Nessel credited the five convictions they did get to the cooperation of law enforcement across jurisdictions.
“Violence is never the answer, and (Thursday’s) sentencing ensures that these men will be held accountable for their attempts to harm the general public, members of law enforcement and the Governor,” said Nessel. “I am grateful for the exemplary work of the investigators and prosecutors in my department, along with the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Michigan State Police.”
In addition to the eight men charged by Nessel, federal charges were also filed against six others, two of whom, Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr., were found guilty in August 2022, of conspiring to kidnap and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction. Croft was additionally found guilty of possession of an unregistered destructive device. Fox is serving a 16-year prison sentence, while Croft was sentenced to 235 months, or just over 19-and-a-half years.
Two others, Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks, both pled guilty to conspiracy charges and cooperated with prosecutors in the other federal trials. Garbin was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison. Franks was ordered to serve 4years.
The remaining two defendants, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta, were found not guilty.
Testimony during the various trials indicated some of the defendants planned to put Whitmer on “trial” and then execute her.
In an October 2020 interview with Whitmer days after the arrests, the Advance asked her about many stories referring to it as a “kidnapping” plot, not a murder attempt.
“The intent was not about ransom,” Whitmer said. “It was to put me on some sort of a trial and execute me. And for some reason that seems to have been lost in all of the coverage.”