A sheriff in Michigan has proposed that the alleged militiamen charged with plotting to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer may have been planning to make a legal citizen’s arrest.

Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf in May took the stage at an anti-lockdown rally with William Null, who with his twin brother Michael Null is among the 13 charged in the kidnapping plot.

‘It’s just a charge, and they say a ‘plot to kidnap’ and you got to remember that. Are they trying to kidnap?’ Leaf told WXMI-TV on Thursday.

‘Because a lot of people are angry with the governor, and they want her arrested. So are they trying to arrest or was it a kidnap attempt? Because you can still in Michigan if it’s a felony, make a felony arrest,’ Leaf said. 

Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf has proposed that the alleged militiamen charged with plotting to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer may have been planning to make a legal citizen's arrest

Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf has proposed that the alleged militiamen charged with plotting to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer may have been planning to make a legal citizen’s arrest

William Null

Michael Null

William Null (left) and his twin brother Michael Null (right) are among the 13 charged in the plot

In May, Sheriff Leaf (far right) appeared on stage with William Null (far left) at an anti-lockdown rally in Grand Rapids, protesting Governor Whitmer's stay-at-home orders

In May, Sheriff Leaf (far right) appeared on stage with William Null (far left) at an anti-lockdown rally in Grand Rapids, protesting Governor Whitmer’s stay-at-home orders

Leaf then cited the Michigan state law that allows private citizens to make an arrest if they witness a felony, or if in fact a felony has been committed. He did not suggest what felony Whitmer could be guilty of.

‘It doesn’t say if you are an elected office that you’re exempt from that arrest,’ Leaf said. 

‘I have to look at it from that angle, and I’m hoping that’s more what it is, in fact, these guys are innocent till proven guilty so I’m not even sure if they had any part of it,’ the sheriff added. 

What is Michigan’s law on citizen’s arrest? 

764.16 Arrest by private person; situations. 

Sec. 16. A private person may make an arrest—in the following situations: 

(a) For a felony committed in the private person’s presence. 

(b) If the person to be arrested has committed a felony although not in the private person’s presence. 

(c) If the private person is summoned by a peace officer to assist the officer in making an arrest. 

(d) If the private person is a merchant, an agent of a merchant, an employee of a merchant, or an independent contractor providing security for a merchant of a store and has reasonable cause to believe that the person to be arrested has violated section 356c or 356d of the Michigan penal code, Act No. 328 of the Public Acts of 1931, being sections 750.356c and 750.356d of the Michigan Compiled Laws, in that store, regardless of whether the violation was committed in the presence of the private person. 

The law was enacted in 1927 and last amended in 1988.

Leaf said that he knew the Null brothers from multiple anti-lockdown events, and knew them as very nice and respectful.

‘The two gentlemen that I know of from my county, were they involved in that? I don’t know. They’re innocent till proven guilty. And we really, really should be careful, trying to try them in the media,’ Leaf said.

Leaf’s office was not involved in the federal investigation of the alleged kidnapping plot, and said that he did not know the details of the case.

‘I haven’t read everything up on it, I’ve got other duties to do, it wasn’t our investigation,’ he said. ‘I was shocked, did not see this coming with those guys, but still we can’t convict them in the media here, they do have a right to a fair trial.’

In May, Leaf appeared alongside William Null on stage at an anti-lockdown protest in Grand Rapids. He said he had no regrets and that the defendants are innocent until proven guilty. 

Leaf’s remarks provoked furious reaction, including from Michigan’s attorney general, Dana Nessel, who called his comments ‘dangerous.’

‘As Michigan’s top law enforcement official, let me make this abundantly clear-Persons who are not sworn, licensed members of a law enforcement agency cannot and should not “arrest” government offficials with whom they have disagreements. These comments are dangerous,’ Nessel said in a tweet.

In a follow-up interview with the Fox affiliate, Leaf tried to clarify his remarks.

‘I don’t want anybody to think I’m sympathetic toward these charges, right?’ Leaf said. ‘These are very, very serious charges. What I don’t want is to be trying it in the media, and we mess it up in the justice system somewhere, because they can’t get a fair trial.’

Asked if he was defending the alleged actions of the defendants, he responded: ‘Absolutely not, I’m defending the law.’ 

Michigan's attorney general, Dana Nessel, called Leaf's remarks 'dangerous'

Michigan’s attorney general, Dana Nessel, called Leaf’s remarks ‘dangerous’

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wears a mask with the word "vote" displayed on the front during a roundtable discussion on healthcare, Wednesday

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wears a mask with the word “vote” displayed on the front during a roundtable discussion on healthcare, Wednesday

The accused in the case were described by prosecutors as members or associates of an anti-government militia group called the Wolverine Watchmen, and were taken into custody late on Wednesday as part of a joint state-federal investigation.

They are accused of conspiring to abduct Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat who has clashed sharply with Republican U.S. President Donald Trump over her COVID-19 public health orders.

Prosecutors say the men also sought to single out law enforcement officers for intimidation, made threats of violence to incite civil unrest, and trained for an operation to storm the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing and take government officials hostage.

‘Clearly this was not just talk,’ Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a CBS News interview on Friday. ‘These were many overt actions. And so we thought it was time to move in before anybody lost their lives.’

William Null (R) stands in the gallery of the Michigan Senate Chamber during the American Patriot Rally to demand the reopening of businesses on April 30

William Null (R) stands in the gallery of the Michigan Senate Chamber during the American Patriot Rally to demand the reopening of businesses on April 30

Michael Null (L) takes part in the American Patriot Rally, organized by Michigan United for Liberty, to demand the reopening of businesses on the steps of the Michigan State Capitol

Michael Null (L) takes part in the American Patriot Rally, organized by Michigan United for Liberty, to demand the reopening of businesses on the steps of the Michigan State Capitol

Nessel said the governor was informed of the investigation and briefed on developments over the past couple of months.

‘At times, she and her family had been moved around as a result of activities that law enforcement was aware of,’ Nessel added.

Each of the seven men named in criminal complaints filed by Nessel’s office is charged with providing material support for terrorist acts and possessing a firearm in the commission of a felony – both punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Two of them – Pete Musico, 46, and Joseph Morrison, 26 – were additionally charged with belonging to a criminal gang and with committing a threat of terrorism. At their arraignment on Thursday, Musico and Morrison were each ordered to remain jailed on a $10 million cash bond, the attorney general’s office said in a statement.

Bond for each of the four others was set at $250,000. Michigan prosecutors are working to extradite the seventh defendant from South Carolina, where he was arrested, the statement said. He, too, is charged with gang membership.

Michael Null (R) and William Null (L) arrive the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan for an anti-lockdown protest in April

Michael Null (R) and William Null (L) arrive the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan for an anti-lockdown protest in April

Michael Null (2nd L) and William Null (C) arrive at the April rally at Michigan's capitol

Michael Null (2nd L) and William Null (C) arrive at the April rally at Michigan’s capitol

Various additional pretrial court proceedings were set for later this month, but no mention was made of any pleas being entered.

In addition to the seven suspects held on state charges, six men were arrested on federal charges of conspiring to kidnap the governor, for which they could face life in prison if convicted.

Michigan, a key swing state in the 2020 presidential race, became a focus of agitation earlier this year by Trump and his supporters, including various militia groups, who opposed strict stay-at-home orders imposed by Whitmer to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

At least three of the defendants charged by the state were among hundreds of protesters, many carrying weapons, who entered the Michigan capitol on April 30 as state lawmakers debated Whitmer’s request to extend her emergency public health authority. Photos show all three men were armed.

Both Whitmer and Nessel accused Trump of inflammatory rhetoric that they said has fostered a climate of racism and political extremism. Trump lashed back by calling Whitmer the ‘lockdown queen’ while denying he was encouraging violence or racism.



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