Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Judge in Whitmer Kidnap Trial Discloses Prior Ties to Governor

'We were colleagues in legislature. We were members of leadership of our respective caucuses. We had several meetings over the years together... '

(Ken Silva, Headline USAMichigan Circuit Judge Kevin Elsenheimer disclosed Monday that he knows the state’s Democrat governor, Gretchen Whitmer, from when the two were both state legislators, but he said the prior relationship won’t affect his ability to preside over the trial of five men accused of playing a role in the Whitmer kidnap plot.

Elsenheimer, a Republican, made his disclosure Monday during the pretrial hearing of Shawn Fix, Eric Molitor, Michael Null, William Null and Brian Higgins. All face the charge of providing material support for terrorist acts—allegedly assisting the Wolverine Watchmen militia in their conspiracy to kidnap Whitmer.

“I do know the victim,” Elsenheimer said, referencing Whitmer. “We were colleagues in legislature. We were members of leadership of our respective caucuses. We had several meetings over the years together. But for the obvious, I have not seen Ms. Whitmer since before she became governor.”

Elsenheimer served as a member of Michigan’s house of representatives from 2005 to 2010, while Whitmer was a member from 2003 to 2006 before serving in Michigan’s senate from 2006 to 2015. Elsenheimer was appointed as a circuit judge in 2017 by former Republican Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.

No one objected to Elsenheimer presiding over the state proceedings.

Also at Monday’s hearing, Michigan Assistant Attorney General William Rolstin said the government will seek to try all five defendants together. Defense attorney Tom Siver, who is representing Michael Null, indicated that he plans to file an objection, so that his client can have a separate trial.

Elsenheimer said he’s aiming for the trial—or trials—to begin in the summer.

Fix, Molitor, Higgins and the Nulls are set to be the third set of defendants to be tried for their role in the alleged plot to kidnap Whitmer. Six men were charged federally with conspiring to kidnap—two were acquitted, two struck plea deals and two were found guilty—and three others were found guilty in December of state charges of providing material support for a terrorist act.

With at least 12 FBI informants and two undercover agents participating in the sting operation to take down the alleged kidnap plotters, some politicians and civil liberties advocates have accused the U.S. government of entrapping the defendants.

“Every step of the way, the Whitmer plot was directed and encouraged by government agents. It required approval at the highest levels of the DOJ,” Rep. Dan Bishop, R-N.C., noted last July. “What we still don’t know: Who approved this op? Who oversaw it?”

Last week, Headline USA revealed that one of the informants in the sting operation had been working for the FBI since at least 2019, and had contacted one of the defendants in January 2020—months before the FBI officially opened its investigation in March 2020. The revelations undermine government’s claim that it only began infiltrating the Michigan militia movement after an FBI informant discovered their violent online rhetoric in March 2020.

Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/jd_cashless.

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