In The News

In The News

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Let's Stop the Hand-Wringing over the Whitmer Terrorist Plot Trial in Northern Michigan

By Michael Nichols
Categories: Michael J. Nichols

When the jury returned not guilty verdicts in Antrim County for the last 3 individuals to be put on trial for the so-called “Whitmer Plot” – you would have thought that Benedict Arnold was pardoned by President Washington.

Attorney General Dana Nessel put out a press release. The Governor herself put out a press release “we hope that this does not encourage right-wing extremists to make threats against public officials” was the theme.

First of all – polarizing people who do not see the world or politics in the same way only further entrenches the other side. It does nothing to bring people together. In addition, there is a long-held legal concept that goes back to the 1st year of law school: “mere presence is insufficient” – in other words just because you are at the location of a crime you are not necessarily guilty.

If you followed the trial at all, you will note that one of the defense attorneys never even asked a question on cross examination of any of the prosecution witnesses. The strategy was simple: “my guy is only here because he was charged with a crime, but he did not do anything wrong.”

Eric Molitor, William Null and Michael Null were found not guilty after a week-long trial on September 15, 2023 in Antrim County. They were accused of providing material support to terrorist activities (kidnapping Governor Whitmer). The defense was pretty simple – “we didn’t like her; we opposed her politics; we hung out with guys who talked about kidnapping her – but we did nothing to help.”

These not guilty verdicts are only a reflection of the successful defense of “mere presence is insufficient” – they are not an indictment on the governor's policies and politics and they are not an endorsement of terrorism. I really wish that the Attorney General had just said “we respect the jury’s verdict and thank them for their service” instead of making comments in a press release that made them seem like a bunch of northern Michigan right-wing wackos.

JoAnne Huls, Whitmer's chief of staff, also issued a statement Friday, September 15, 2023:

“Today’s verdict is disappointing," it read. “A not guilty verdict on the plot to kidnap and kill Governor Whitmer in hopes of starting a civil war will further encourage and embolden radical extremists trying to sow discord and harm public officials or law enforcement."

People in Northern Michigan deserve better. The system deserves better. Mere presence is insufficient to establish criminal culpability.

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Peer Recognition

Mike Nichols is a national leader in drunk driving defense. He is a member of the Forensic Committee and Michigan delegate to the National College for DUI Defense. He is also a Sustaining Member of the College. Nichols is also a founding member of the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys; a member of the American Chemical Society; an associate member of he American Academy of Forensic Science, Adjunct Professor of Forensic Evidence in Criminal Law and OWI Law and Practice at Cooley Law School. He is also author of the West OWI Practice book and several chapters in other books on science and the law.

Mike Nichols is recognized by his peers in Michigan as a “SuperLawyer” in DUI/Criminal Defense. Nichols has also been asked to speak at conferences by groups such as the NCDD; Various Bar Associations in other states.