Jackson – A judge has dismissed a young woman from the jury that tried three men in connection with a 2020 kidnapping plot against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer after attorneys accused her of having an affair with one of the defendants.
Judge Thomas Wilson announced Friday that the woman had been removed from the jury, two days after attorneys raised concerns that the juror had excessive nonverbal communication with defendant Paul Bellar, the Jackson Citizen Patriot reported.
“It didn’t just happen in one day, it happened over several days,” Wilson said of the juror’s behavior. “I decided it was safer to err on the side of caution.”
Wilson said he had never seen such behavior in his nearly 35 years of practicing law. The jury made a good decision, he said.
Bellar, 24, was a member of a paramilitary group, the Wolverine Watchmen. He is on trial with co-defendants Joseph Morrison and Pete Musico. The three men are accused of providing material support for a terrorist act in the state court of Jackson. These people pleaded not guilty and claimed that they were trapped by the FBI informant and his agents.
The defendants’ lawyers objected to the dismissal of the jury.
“There was no verbal communication between the two and the description of the communication is speculative,” Musico spokesman Kareem Johnson said.
William Rollsteen, who is prosecuting the case for Michigan’s attorney general, expressed concern about the jury in Wednesday’s hearing before Wilson.
“From the beginning of the trial … there was non-verbal communication between one of the jurors — a woman — and Mr. Bellar,” Rollsteen said. “Communication was in the form of eye contact (and) smiling at each other.”
Several others in the courtroom, including Wilson and Bellar’s attorney, Andrew Kirkpatrick, also said they had seen an interaction between the two since the trial began.
Distaste for the COVID-19 restrictions imposed by Whitmer inspired the defendants to ally with others who plotted to hijack the Democratic governor and start a national uprising shortly before the 2020 presidential election, officials said.
Two other men, Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr., were convicted in August of federal crimes in connection with the scheme.