According to prosecutors, twins Michael and William Null are a part of a militia group who conspired to overthrow the government, kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and put her on trial for “treason.”
But according to a Michigan sheriff, who once shared the stage with one of the twins at an anti-Whitmer rally, they might have only wanted to perform a citizen’s arrest on the Democratic governor, calling the bombshell allegations “just a charge.”
“It’s just a charge, and they say a ‘plot to kidnap’ and you got to remember that. Are they trying to kidnap? Because a lot of people are angry with the governor, and they want her arrested. So are they trying to arrest or was it a kidnap attempt? Because you can still, in Michigan, if it’s a felony, make a felony arrest,” Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf told Fox 17.
The Nulls are among seven men linked to the militia group Wolverine Watchmen who were hit on Thursday with several charges, including terrorism crimes, after allegedly planning to attack the state capitol building and attempt to “instigate a Civil war.” In addition to the twins, Paul Bellar, 21, Shawn Fix, 38, Eric Molitor, 36, Pete Musico, 42, and Joseph Morrison, 42, were also charged.
The charges came in tandem with federal charges against six other men in an alleged plot to kidnap Whitmer before Election Day.
“There has been a disturbing increase in anti-government rhetoric and the re-emergence of groups that embrace extremist ideologies,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said Thursday. “This is more than just political disagreement or passionate advocacy. Some of these groups’ mission is simply to create chaos and inflict harm upon others.”
On Friday, Nessel took aim at Leaf’s defense of the Null brothers.
“As Michigan’s top law enforcement official, let me make this abundantly clear—Persons who are not sworn, licensed members of a law enforcement agency cannot and should not ‘arrest’ government officials with whom they have disagreements. These comments are dangerous,” she tweeted.
But Tom Siver, who is representing the twins, claimed Friday the 38-year-old Michigan residents had been unfairly targeted in a “political vendetta” by state officials and law enforcement. He said the Nulls, who were being held in Antrim County Jail, are not “a flight risk, they aren't a danger to the community at all, an ask of a bond of a million dollars is punishing them before their trial.”
“At this point, we believe this is a political vendetta by the governor’s office and the AG's office. If they believe this was true they would give us dates and times and they were delayed in taking action,” Siver told UpNorthLive on Friday.
The high bond, however, may be tied to the severity of the allegations. Prosecutors argue the Wolverine Watchmen plotted a violent attack on Whitmer and sought to incite a civil war this summer, with plans to kidnap other elected officials.
The Nulls have a public history of showing their distaste for the Democratic governor and her policies—and were photographed at an anti-Whitmer demonstration at the Michigan capitol in April.
The twins were among a group of militia members who stormed the capitol to protest Whitmer’s COVID-19 restrictions, as the Detroit Free Press first reported. In one photo, the twins are seen wearing a “Michigan Liberty Militia” patch—referring to one of the militarized groups banned by Facebook in August—faux lanyards and walkie talkies. Both are also armed with semi-automatic weapons.
At least one of the brothers was arrested during the event, which featured hundreds of protesters, some of them armed with assault rifles, demanding entry onto the state Senate floor to confront lawmakers set to debate an extension of the stay-at-home order.
In a widely shared tweet at the time, State Sen. Dayna Polehanki (D) claimed some senators were wearing bulletproof vests as a result. A spokesperson for the Michigan AG’s office confirmed Friday that Polehanki’s tweet featured one of the Null brothers.
“They never came off as these ‘screw the government, we’re going to take it over’ type of people,” Michelle Gregoire, a member of one Michigan militia who was at the April event, told the Detroit News. Gregoire stressed that she had met the Nulls multiple times and added that her immediate response to Thursday’s charges was, “Who the hell are the Wolverine Watchmen?”
Ryan Kelley, an organizer of the April demonstration dubbed an "American Patriot Rally," added to the outlet he was "totally surprised" by the criminal charges and admitted he’d met the twins at one of the rallies—but claimed he had no other communication. Gregorie and Kelley did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment. The American Patriot Council, the pro-militia group who hosted the rally, also issued a statement Thursday stressing they don’t condone “violence as a form of political action.”
A month later, the Nulls joined a rally in protest of Whitmer’s order in Grand Rapids—an event where the Barry County sheriff was a guest speaker. In his interview with Fox 17 Thursday, Leaf stressed he didn’t know about the twin’s alleged involvement in the plot against Whitmer, but said he doesn’t have any regrets about sharing a stage with William Null.
“I haven’t read everything up on it, I’ve got other duties to do, it wasn’t our investigation. I was shocked, did not see this coming with those guys, but still we can't convict them in the media here, they do have a right to a fair trial,” Leaf said before making the bonkers suggestion that a citizen’s arrest in this case might have been legal.
“I think it’s MCL 764.4, 764.5 somewhere on there and it doesn’t say if you are an elected officer that you're exempt from that arrest. I have to look at it from that angle and I’m hoping that's more what it is. In fact, these guys are innocent till proven guilty so I’m not even sure if they had any part of it,” Leaf added.
The sheriff added that the Null brothers had always been nice and respectful to him, stating the two “gentlemen” are “innocent til proven guilty. And we really, really should be careful, trying to try them in the media.”
A neighbor of William Null, who requested anonymity, told The Daily Beast he was “a bit surprised” to hear the 38-year-old was arrested for his involvement in the wild plot. Stressing there are “a lot of militia people here,” the neighbor said Null didn’t seem as violent as the allegations suggest.
“Guess it’s hard to truly know your neighbors,” the West Michigan man mused.