New bond conditions set for brothers charged in Whitmer kidnap plot
A Grand Traverse County judge Wednesday denied a request to lower the bonds of identical twin brothers charged in an alleged plot to overthrow the state capitol and kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, but agreed to modifications to make posting bail easier.
Grand Traverse County's 86th District Judge Michael Stepka added a 10% cash or surety allowance for the $250,000 bonds of Michael Null of Plainwell and William Null of Shelbyville at the request of defense attorneys.
The men are among eight co-defendants accused by the state of plotting to ignite a "civil war." Six others, including accused ring leader Adam Fox of Potterville face more severe charges in federal court in Grand Rapids for their alleged roles.
Stepka modified the bond conditions after first declining to take any action, noting that right now there are "concerns for the safety of the public and government officials."
During Wednesday's nearly hour-long hearing, defense attorneys for the Nulls argued the bond was "constitutionally excessive" and the pair have the "love and support" of the west Michigan community. The Nulls are locked up at the Grand Traverse County Jail and did not appear during the virtual hearing.
Tom Siver, an attorney for Michael Null, told the judge that the Nulls both work as contractors, providing for their families, and "have a long, stable history here in Michigan."
"They do not have any violent criminal histories. Period," Siver said.
But Sunita Doddamani, an assistant attorney general, opposed changes to the bond, characterizing the Nulls as "extremely dangerous individuals" who are charged with "very serious offenses."
The men, she noted, had a "virtual arsenal of firearms at their disposal" that were seized from their home by authorities.
“They were clearly motivated to commit political violence and they were at the table early in multi-state meetings with militias as early as June,” she said. "They went to provide help and support for the operators of this plot."
As members of the Michigan Liberty Militia, the Nulls, 38, attended a May 18 rally in Grand Rapids to protest Whitmer's COVID-19 induced stay-at-home order. On April 30, the brothers were among demonstrators at the Michigan Capitol in Lansing for a separate rally opposing the governor.
In the months that followed, the brothers, armed with semi-automatic weapons, also took part in other rallies.
On Sept. 12, a federal affidavit contends, the Nulls acted as "lookouts" during nighttime surveillance of Whitmer's vacation home near Elk Rapids.
The Michigan State Police and FBI agents raided Michael Null’s Barry County home on Oct. 7. He and his brother are charged with providing material support for terrorist acts and carrying or possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony.
"They were fully aware of the objective of the surveillance of the governor's home and they had a chance to change their mind, but they didn't do that," Doddamani told the judge Wednesday.
If the men are able to post bond, Sepka said they must remain at their own homes other than to travel to their lawyers' offices or to work, with a curfew. They also will be subject to tether monitoring and barred from possessing any weapons, drugs and alcohol, or associating with anyone related to the Wolverine Watchmen or Michigan Liberties Militia.
"I guarantee if there's any violations for bond for either one of them they'll be remanded," Sepka said. "That's if they bond out."
Siver and William Null's attorney, Damian Nunzio, on Wednesday also stressed hardships that they contend hamper the defense in preparing the men for trial due to restrictions from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Restrictions tied to the virus, they said, have prevented the Nulls from hearing some 150-plus hours of recordings or reviewing documents.
The Nulls and fellow members of the Wolverine Watchmen militia group are accused of attempting to find the home addresses of law enforcement officers to target them, making threats of violence intended to instigate a civil war and engaging in planning and training to attack the Capitol and kidnap government officials including Whitmer.
Wednesday's bond hearing comes after several other defendants charged in the case have had their bonds slashed.
In October, a Jackson County judge cut the bond of co-defendant Pete Musico of Munith from $10 million to $100,000.
Last month, District Judge Michael Klaeren of Jackson's 12th District Court lowered the bonds of Musico's son-in-law Joseph Morrison, also of Munith, and Paul Bellar of Milford.
The judge dropped Morrison's bond from $10 million to $150,000 and Bellar's from $500,000 to $75,000 after hearing arguments from defense lawyers for the men and agreeing that the bonds were too high.
Shawn Fix of Belleville was released from the Antrim County Jail on Nov. 10 after posting 10% of a $250,000 bond.
The Nulls are due back in court Dec. 16 for a preliminary examination. Prosecutors noted Wednesday that they intend to ask the court for a joint exam with the Nulls and two of the other defendants.
Defense also urged the judge to approve a gag order for the attorney general's office, preventing them from "making assertions" to the media. Stepka declined, noting the media has the right to report on all cases and he trusts attorneys for both sides "won't do anything to jeopardize their case."