NOT GUILTY: Antrim jury acquits all 3 in Whitmer kidnap plot trial
A tearful Eric Molitor gave hugs to supporters in an Antrim County courtroom Friday, where a jury acquitted him and two other men who were accused of aiding in the plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Molitor, William Null, and Michael Null were charged with providing material support to an act of terrorism, and faced a felony firearm charge, too.
After the verdict was read, declaring all three men not guilty, Judge Charles Hamlyn said the defendants were free to go, and applause was heard in the courtroom.
"I don't hate my government. I don't hate police," Molitor told reporters afterward. "And I'm not a liar."
The prosecution's argument questioned the sincerity of the defendants' claims that they were either unwilling or unserious participants in the plot.
The trial ran more than three weeks. Prosecutors presented hundreds of pieces of evidence, including recordings of the three defendants and some of their social media posts.
Defense attorneys argued that associating with the convicted ringleaders of the failed plot was not, itself, a crime.
Of the original 14 men that were charged in state and federal court since the plot was revealed, nine have been convicted while, now, five have been acquitted.
Molitor's attorney, Bill Barnett, said he wants the FBI’s role in those cases to be re-examined.
“They in my opinion, instigated, manufactured this whole thing and escalated it to a very high level right before an election," Barnett said.
The prosecution, led by Michigan Assistant Attorney General William Rollstin, did not answer questions from reporters after court was dismissed.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said the convictions in other cases send a "clear message that acts of domestic terrorism will not be tolerated in our state," while also acknowledging that the verdict in this trial was not what she had hoped for.
JoAnne Huls, Whitmer's chief of staff, also issued a statement Friday.
“Today’s verdict is disappointing," it read. “A not guilty verdict on the plot to kidnap and kill Governor Whitmer in hopes of starting a civil war will further encourage and embolden radical extremists trying to sow discord and harm public officials or law enforcement."