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Court orders Nessel to release Whitmer plot exhibits

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel
Jodi Westrick
Michigan Radio
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. (Photo: Jodi Westrick/Michigan Radio)

The Michigan Attorney General’s office won’t appeal a ruling that it violated Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act.

The state attorney general’s office has agreed it will share copies of evidence used in court against defendants charged with plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Eric VanDussen, a freelance journalist based in northern Michigan, raised the issue with the courts.

The state lost in the Michigan Court of Claims and an appeal was expected.

But the press secretary for Attorney General Dana Nessel said the state will drop its challenge and comply with the Wednesday order from the judge.

“The Department intends to comply with yesterday’s court order and turn over the documents and exhibits with all deliberate speed,” said Nessel Press Secretary Danny Wimmer in an email.

The freelance journalist who filed the request expressed skepticism.

“Yeah. I’m not holding my breath and I’ll believe it when I see it,” said VanDussen, who first filed the request in September of last year.

He said the promise to provide the records “with all deliberate speed” is vague and he may seek a court order for a swift timeline to comply with the decision.

“My question would be, what does ‘deliberate speed’ mean? Are they playing word games here?” he said in an interview with Michigan Public Radio. “…If they’re going to do it with ‘deliberate speed,’ we all know how the digital world works and they could have already emailed them to my attorney.”

VanDussen argued — and the Court of Claims agreed — that the records are public because they were presented in open court.

VanDussen said he also wants court costs and may seek punitive damages.

Copyright 2023 Michigan Radio. To see more, visit Michigan Radio.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.