JACKSON, Mich. — A judge has released a young woman from the jury hearing the trial of three men in connection with a 2020 conspiracy to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer after attorneys accused her of flirting with one of the defendants to have.
Judge Thomas Wilson announced Friday that the woman was removed from the jury, two days after attorneys raised concerns that the juror engaged in too much non-verbal communication with defendant Paul Bellar, the Jackson Citizen Patriot reported.
“It didn’t just happen in one day, it happened over several days,” Wilson said of the jury’s behavior. “I’ve decided it’s safer to play it safe.”
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Wilson said he had never seen behavior like this in almost 35 years of practicing law. The jury made a good decision, he said.
Bellar, 24, was a member of a paramilitary group, the Wolverine Watchmen. He is on trial along with co-defendants Joseph Morrison and Pete Musico. The three are charged in a state court in Jackson, Michigan with materially supporting a terrorist attack. The men have pleaded not guilty, claiming they were caught by an FBI informant and his henchmen.
The defendants’ attorneys disagreed with the jury’s dismissal.
“There was no verbal communication between the two, and descriptions of the communication are speculative,” said Kareem Johnson, who represents Musico.
William Rollstin, who is prosecuting the case for Michigan’s Attorney General, expressed concerns about the jury at a meeting before Wilson on Wednesday.
“From the beginning of the trial … there was non-verbal communication between one of the jurors – a woman – and Mr. Bellar,” Rollstin said. “The communication was in the form of eye contact (and) smiles.”
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Several others in the courtroom, including Wilson and Bellar’s attorney Andrew Kirkpatrick, also said they had seen interactions between the two since the trial began.
Authorities said disgust at Whitmer’s imposed COVID-19 restrictions inspired the defendants to forge an alliance with others who conspired to kidnap the Democratic governor and spark a national revolt ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
Two other men, Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr., were convicted in August of federal crimes related to the plot.
The video in the player above is from a previous report.
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https://6abc.com/gretchen-whitmer-kidnapping-trial-juror-flirting-with-defendant-paul-bellar/12335373/ Governor Gretchen Whitmer kidnapping plot trial: Juror accused of flirting with defendant, Wolverine Watchmen member Paul Bellar