LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel told a group Monday that a jury in Republican-leaning Antrim County was "seemingly not so concerned" about a scheme to kidnap and assassinate Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, according to a video obtained by The Detroit News.
Nessel, who is a Democrat and the state's top law enforcement official, gave her analysis less than a week after a jury in Antrim County found three men who had been charged in a kidnapping plot targeting the governor not guilty. Nessel described the jury's Friday decision as "perplexing, confusing but terrifying."
William Null, his twin brother, Michael Null, and Eric Molitor had been accused by the Attorney General's office of providing support for a terrorist act and a weapons offense.
"We charged eight defendants. We convicted five," Nessel said of her office's prosecution of the plot to kidnap Whitmer. "But three of them were acquitted by a jury in Antrim County, not because we didn't have great evidence but because essentially, it seemed to me as though the Antrim County jurors, (in a) very, very right-leaning county (were) seemingly not so concerned about the kidnapping and assassination of the governor."
It's unusual for a Michigan attorney general or elected prosecutor to publicly criticize a jury.
Nessel's office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.
She made the remarks during a 20-minute virtual event with the organization Protectors of Equality in Government. The group had said Nessel's appearance would highlight "the messaging we all use to talk about fake electors and the various indictments, including (former President) Trump."
A joint operation, involving Nessel's office, the Michigan State Police and federal authorities, spurred charges against 14 people in an alleged scheme to attack the state Capitol building and kidnap government officials, including Whitmer. The charges were first announced in October 2020.
Nessel's office spearheaded the prosecution of eight of the people. Federal prosecutors handled other cases, resulting in two convictions and lengthy prison sentences.
Outside the courthouse on Friday, an Antrim County juror approached Molitor and “said he was very sorry for all he had gone through,” defense attorney William Barnett told the Associated Press. Barnett said jurors privately told the judge the evidence simply did not add up to “material support” for a kidnapping plot, according to the Associated Press.
Antrim County is a GOP-leaning area with Trump, a Republican, winning 61% of the votes there in November 2020.
In her remarks on Monday, Nessel compared Antrim County to Ingham County, where her office brought felony charges against 16 Republicans who signed a false certificate after the 2020 presidential election in an attempt to challenge Democrat Joe Biden's victory.
"Eventually, those cases will be tried in Ingham County, which is very different than Antrim County," Nessel said. "Ingham County, where Lansing is located, is a very, very Democratic-leaning county."
Nessel also said the Michigan false electors had been "brainwashed" and "genuinely" believed Trump won Michigan's 2020 presidential election.
"They legit believe that. They genuinely believe it," Nessel said during her comments, according to the video.
Nessel announced eight felony charges, including forgery, against each of the 16 false electors in July. Kevin Kijewski, the lawyer for one of the electors, Clifford Frost of Warren, said Nessel's remarks, saying there was a belief that Trump won, could cause a problem for her office's ability to prove the electors had an intent to defraud when they signed the certificate.
"This just proves that the prosecutor is acting politically," Kijewski said.
The 16 false electors' cases are currently pending in Ingham County District Court. They have all pleaded not guilty.
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