West Michigan brothers released from jail on bond in Whitmer plot

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Two West Michigan men charged in a plot to storm the state Capitol and kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer were released from jail Thursday, one day after a judge amended their bond conditions.

Michael Null of Plainwell and William Null of Shelbyville, both 38, were released from custody around 4 p.m., according to Grand Traverse County records. 

In a photo provided by the Antrim County Sheriff, William Null is shown in a booking photo.

On Wednesday, 86th District Judge Michael Stepka granted a 10% cash or surety allowance for each of the Nulls' $250,000 bonds at the close of a nearly hour-long zoom hearing.

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. 

In a photo provided by the Antrim County Sheriff, Michael Null is shown in a booking photo.

The Nulls are the latest defendants in the alleged plot to be granted bond changes or make bail.

Defense attorneys for the Nulls argued Wednesday that the bond was "constitutionally excessive" and the pair have the "love and support" of the west Michigan community.

The Nulls have been held in Grand Traverse County Jail and did not appear during the hearing. Attorneys for the men could not be immediately reached Thursday. 

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.

Sepka said if released the Nulls 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 Liberty Militia, he said. 

The Michigan Attorney General's Office said in a Thursday press release that a probable cause conference is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday in Jackson County's 12th District Court for Peter Musico, 42, of Munith, another defendant in the plot. 

Other Jackson County defendants — Musico's son-in-law, Joseph Morrison, 26, also of Munith, and Paul Bellar, 21, of Milford — have a probable cause conference on Dec. 18.

Bellar, Musico and Shawn Fix, 38, of Belleville, have made bond and were released from law enforcement custody.

All other defendants remain in custody, the attorney general's office noted. 

Extradition efforts continue for one defendant, 52-year-old Brian Higgins of Wisconsin. He is being extradited to Michigan from Columbia County, Wisconsin. 

An extradition hearing is set for Dec. 15. When he is returned to the state, he will be arraigned in Antrim County's 86th District Court on a 20-year felony count of material support of an act of terrorism, authorities said. 

The Nulls are charged with providing material support for terrorist acts and carrying or possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony.

As members of the Michigan Liberty Militia, the Nulls 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.