One of three men accused of assisting a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer testified in his own defense Thursday, telling jurors that government-imposed restrictions during the pandemic were excessive.
Eric Molitor, 39, and twin brothers William Null and Michael Null are charged with providing material support for terrorist acts and gun crimes in a 2020 scheme to kidnap Whitmer at her vacation home in northern Michigan’s Antrim County.
Molitor’s decision to testify was a rare move: In four trials so far in state and federal courts, only one other defendant has taken the witness stand. He was acquitted.
The first hour of Molitor’s testimony centered on his personal background and views about government, gun rights and free speech, not the specific allegations against him.
“Nobody should have to tell you to wear a mask,” Molitor told jurors, referring to COVID-19 rules. “If it’s for your safety, that should be up to you.”
Molitor and the Nulls are accused of aiding plot leaders Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. Social media posts and text messages show the group was outraged over COVID-19 restrictions, but evidence has also revealed that they had strident anti-government views before the pandemic and were girding for a civil war.
“I see things a lot as a slippery slope,” Molitor told the jury, referring to certain government actions.
He said he becomes “worried about these small laws and rules that come in. They open the door for bigger laws and rules to infringe on our rights.”
Molitor described himself as a libertarian but said he voted for Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel, both Democrats, in 2016. Nessel’s office is prosecuting him.
There’s no dispute that Molitor drove with Fox to see Whitmer’s home in August 2020. The Null brothers were on a night ride to see the property several days later. The three also participated in paramilitary training.
Molitor’s attorney has said he was a small player and didn’t initially know he was looking for Whitmer’s home.
Informants and undercover FBI agents were inside the group for months, making recordings and collecting evidence. Whitmer was not physically harmed.
Fourteen men were arrested just a month before the November 2020 election. Nine have been convicted in state or federal court while two have been acquitted.
After the plot was thwarted, Whitmer blamed then-President Donald Trump, saying he had given “comfort to those who spread fear and hatred and division.” Trump called the kidnapping plan a “fake deal” in August 2022.
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Ed White, The Associated Press