A Michigan sheriff defends men accused of plotting to kidnap the governor: 'They want her arrested'
On Thursday, the FBI announced that six men were facing federal charges in connection with an alleged plot to kidnap and possibly kill Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced that seven of their allies were facing weapons charges at the state level.
And in a new local sheriff who had appeared at a rally with some of the suspects made an awkward effort to defend them, implying that perhaps they were merely trying to "arrest" Whitmer rather than kidnap her.
According to the FBI, far-right extremists (including members of the Wolverine Watchmen, a militia group) planned to kidnap Whitmer and take her to Wisconsin, where they would conduct a "trial" for treason. The militia members were furious with Whitmer for the social distancing restrictions that she ordered in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. And if they found Whitmer guilty of treason, the FBI said, she would be executed.
But when Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf was interviewed by Fox 17 (a Fox affiliate in Grand Rapids, Michigan), he implied that what the extremists had in mind was not a terrorist plot, but merely a citizens' arrest.
Two of the men facing charges are brothers Michael and William Null, who have been accused of providing support for terrorist acts. Fox 17 aired video that showed Leaf standing alongside William Null at a demonstration in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where both of them protested against Whitmer's stay-at-home order. Leaf was a guest speaker at that event.
Leaf, discussing the Null brothers, told Fox 17, "We can't convict them in the news media here. They do have a right to a fair trial."
Leaf was asked if he had any "regrets" about standing alongside a man who is "now being charged in a plot to kidnap the governor."
He responded, "Well, it's just a charge. And they say a plot to kidnap, and you gotta remember: 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 kidnapping attempt? Because in Michigan, if it's a felony, you can make a felony arrest."
Leaf added, "It doesn't say, if you're elected to office, 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 until proven guilty. So, I'm not even sure if they had any part in it."
Leaf's comments are drawing a lot of responses on social media. Twitter user George Schwab, @CpkGeo, posted, "That sheriff needs to go NOW!," and another Twitter user, Eric Brown, @EricBrown1911, wrote, "Words cannot describe the lengths at which people go through to justify ignorance and stupidity."
Detroit-based attorney William Maze, @TheDUILawyer, tweeted, "Insane. But Sheriff Dar Leaf is a member of the far right Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA) and has links on his page to 'Posse,' which can only refer to the right wing hate group Posse Comitatus."
This interview with a sitting sheriff in Michigan is absolutely wild. https://t.co/h7WKsrAqCZ— Ross Jones (@Ross Jones)1602255703.0