At pro-Trump rally, militia leader claims accused Whitmer plotters are ‘not guilty’

Phil Robinson, leader of the Michigan Liberty Militia, speaks with other Militia members at the Michigan Capitol Wednesday during a pro-Trump rally, Jan. 6, 2021 | Todd Heywood

Phil Robinson, leader of the Michigan Liberty Militia, said Wednesday at a pro-President Trump rally at the state Capitol that the men accused in a plot to kidnap and kill Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer are “not guilty.”

“All I can say about that is that they are not guilty. I know them guys personally and that’s not the case,” he said. “It will all get played out in court and we’ll all find out the truth.”

The rally of about 700 people was one of several across the country as Congress was set to count Electoral College votes at the U.S. Capitol certifying Democrat Joe Biden as the winner. Former state Sen. Patrick Colbeck as well as incoming state Rep. Steve Carra (R-Three Rivers).

The demonstration of thousands at the U.S. Capitol turned violent, with pro-Trump supporters storming the building and shots reportedly being fired. Lawmakers and Vice President Mike Pence were moved out for their safety.

In October, 13 men were charged in either state or federal court on allegations and charges they planned to kidnap Whitmer and put her on trial for treason in response to her emergency orders to stop the spread of COVID-19, as Advance reported. After the trial, they planned to execute the Democrat as punishment for her actions to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic in the state. Another plot involved blowing up the Michigan Capitol. 

Federal authorities brought terrorism and conspiracy charges in federal courts against Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta on Oct. 8 last year. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court of Western Michigan, located in Grand Rapids. Some of the men allegedly plotted at one of the right-wing protests at the Capitol.

On Dec. 17, Talking Points Memo reported a federal grand jury returned an indictment against the six men on one count each of kidnapping conspiracy. If convicted, the men face life in prison. 

Paul Beller of Milford, Sean Fix of Belleville, Eric Molitar of Cadillac, Michael Null of Plainwell, William Null of Shelbyville, and Pete Musico and Joseph Morrison who lived together in Munith all face state criminal charges including threats of terrorism, material support of terrorism, felong firearm charges and gang membership. 

Lansing City Pulse originally reported on Robinson’s ties to the Nulls and Bellar in October. Due to a purge of militia associated individuals, he did not receive, and would not have been able to respond to. Facebook messages sent to him for comment. He said there had not been a falling out between him and any of the alleged conspirators, and called them his “brothers.”

Robinson said while he has not had contact with any of the accused plotters as a result of a court order preventing them from contacting other militia members, he believes they did nothing wrong. He compared the case against all the men to a 2010 federal case against the Christian group the Hutaree Militia. The Hutaree members had allegedly plotted to kill a police officer and then assault the funeral procession to trigger a war. The federal charges were ultimately dismissed under First Amendment grounds. 

“All you gotta know is in 2010 they tried the same bulls–t with a militia group here in Michigan,” he said. “And they all got the charges dropped. Because it was all talk. We have a right to talk.”

This report is a product of a partnership between Michigan Advance and Lansing City Pulse.