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Alleged Wolverine Watchmen member appears in Jackson Co. court

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

A Munith man allegedly involved with the Wolverine Watchmen militia appeared in a Jackson County court Friday on charges for his alleged role in plans to storm the Michigan Capitol and harm government officials.

Pete Musico, one of eight men charged under the state’s anti-terrorism law, appeared virtually for his probable cause conference with the 12th District Court. He faces up to 20 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine. 

Pete Musico, bottom right, at his probable cause conference in Jackson County District Court

Musico, 42, was represented by attorney Kareem Johnson, who requested a bond review on Musico's behalf.

Assistant Attorney General Gregory Townshed requested another week for the office to compile evidence to provide to the defense.

He said the attorney general's office plans to present three witnesses in the case. The office also needs time to redact information from 1,100 federal police reports, 84 recordings totaling 150 hours, approximately 5,000 pages on each Facebook account and 1,000 pages of text messages.

"Before we even begin this ... we consider the defendant to be extremely dangerous. We would ask the court to allow us to do response in pleading in this matter so we can set forth the entirety of our arguments to the court," Townshed said.

Johnson objected, saying Musico should not have to withstand another week in detention.

This photo provided by the Jackson County Sheriff's Office shows Pete Musico.

"My client, who is not charged with any violent offenses, who is only charged with class B offenses, with a monetary fine of $20,000, we are now extending his pretrial incarceration to argue a bond hearing the people should have been prepared to argue today," Johnson said.

Musico and Joseph Morrison, who are said to be founding members of the "anti-government, anti-law enforcement" Wolverine Watchmen, are co-defendants in the alleged plot to storm the state Capitol to ignite a "civil war."

Musico and Morrison, who live together in Munith, are both co-defendants and charged with one count each of threat of terrorism, a 20-year felony and/or $20,000 fine; one count each of gang membership, a 20-year felony that may be served as a consecutive sentence; one count each of providing material support for terrorist acts; and one count each of felony firearm, which carries a two-year mandatory prison sentence.

Judge Michael Klaeren postponed both bond review requests and the probable cause conferences to 10 a.m. on Oct. 23.

Morrison, 26, was a lance corporal and served in the Marine Corps Reserve from 2015 until Thursday, the day he was arraigned on state charges. The Marine Corps said his departure from the reserves is “unrelated to (his) current situation.”

Morrison’s last assignment was with the 4th Marine Logistics Group in Battle Creek.

The Munith residence of Pete Musico, 42, and Joseph Morrison, 26, is pictured on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020.

State and federal prosecutors announced charges a week ago against 13 individuals who they say were training and planning to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and storm the state Capitol. 

The seven who are believed to be members and associates of a Michigan militia known as the Wolverine Watchmen have been charged under the state's anti-terrorism law, a 20-year felony. The other six face federal charges of conspiracy to commit kidnapping, which is punishable by up to life in prison. 

A federal magistrate judge Friday ordered five of the men to stand trial on allegations they plotted to kidnap Whitmer.

The move by U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally Berens followed two days of testimony about a broad plot by men accused of holding anti-government views to kidnap the governor as retribution for stay-at-home orders imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Berens said there was sufficient evidence to support the conspiracy charge, pointing to allegations the alleged co-conspirators conducted nighttime surveillance of Whitmer's vacation home in northern Michigan.

Authorities arrested a 14th person, a Wisconsin man, on Thursday in the alleged kidnapping plot.

Federal documents filed in court last week allege the conspirators twice conducted surveillance at Whitmer's personal vacation home in northern Michigan and discussed kidnapping her to a "secure location" in Wisconsin to stand "trial" for treason prior to the Nov. 3 election.

An FBI agent testified during a bond hearing Tuesday that some of the men also had plans of "taking out" Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_