Correction: This story incorrectly indicated the Hutaree defendants were found not guilty at a bench trial; however, the judge issued a directed verdict of not guilty. It was a jury trial.
LANSING, MI — Five of 14 men accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer were found innocent.
Considering the personnel, money and time that went into investigating and prosecuting the plotters over a three-year period in multiple states, numerous Michigan cities and three different courts, some attorneys tell MLive the results were underwhelming.
All three men who opted for jury trials in Antrim County — Eric Molitor, 39, of Cadillac; Michael Null, 41, of Plainwell, and twin brother William Null, 41, of Shelbyville — were cleared on charges of contributing material support to a terrorist plan and use of a firearm during the commission of a felony on Sept. 15.
Following the verdict, “one of the jurors came up and gave my client a handshake and a short hug and just said, you know what, I’m so sorry for all that you went through,” said attorney William Barnett, who represented Molitor.
In total, five men were found not guilty (two in federal court and three in Antrim County); Five were convicted by juries (two in federal court and three in Jackson County); and four pleaded guilty as a condition of deals they accepted from prosecutors (two in federal court and two in Antrim County).
According to Pew Research analysis of federal court results in fiscal year 2018, less than 1% of all cases that went to trial resulted in not-guilty verdicts.
There are no readily available conviction statistics for Michigan courts, although attorneys agree the conviction rate in state court is lower than in federal court.
In the kidnap plot case, 50% of the men who went