Michigan men sentenced for role in alleged Whitmer kidnapping plot transferred to out-of-state federal prisons, presiding judge wants to know why

Oct 31, 2023 | Political News

A Michigan judge wants to know why two men convicted in the plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer have been transferred to out-of-state federal prisons.

Paul Bellar and Joe Morrison, who were found guilty of providing material support for a terrorist act, along with other charges, are entitled to appeal their convictions following a 2022 trial on state charges, but their lawyers say it’s increasingly difficult to work with their clients when they’re hundreds of miles away, according to the Associated Press.

Bellar was sentenced to seven years in prison and Morrison to 10 years.  The two had no direct role in the kidnapping plot, but had held gun training with leader of the plot Adam Fox.

Morrison is in a federal prison in Illinois, while Bellar was shipped to Pennsylvania. Another defendant in the case who was part of the same paramilitary group but has not formally challenged his placement, Pete Musico, was sent to West Virginia, and was sentenced to at least 12 years in prison.

The Associated Press noted that there is a federal prison located in Milan, Michigan.

Assistant Attorney General John Pallas reportedly said he didn’t know specifically why the three men were transferred out of state, other than “general safety concerns.”

“Without that information, it feels like we’re flying blind,” Judge Thomas Wilson said, who oversaw the Jackson County trial of the three men in 2022.

Michael Faraone, who represents Morrison, said the transfer is “mind-boggling” and “appalling,” later questioning, “Under what legal authority did the MDOC send him there? I haven’t seen an answer to that.”

“Whatever we may say about this case, however we may feel about it, I think we can agree we’re not dealing with al-Qaida,” Faraone told a judge on Friday.

Appellate lawyer Ron Ambrose said trial transcripts that had been sent through the mail to Bellar had been returned.

“Trying to communicate with Mr. Bellar is almost nonexistent,” he said.

Corrections Department spokesman Kyle Kaminski told the outlet that the state reportedly pays around $100 per day to the federal government to house a prisoner, which would add up to roughly $110,000 per year for the three men.

Pallas has pledged to help these lawyers regain their ability to talk to the men, but the judge set a hearing for December 1 to get answers and an update on the matter.