A judge dismissed a female juror accused of flirting with one of the defendants charged in an alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer over COVID-19-era lockdown measures.
Jackson County Judge Thomas Wilson announced Friday that the woman has been removed from the jury, two days after attorneys raised concerns the juror was having too much non-verbal communication with defendant Paul Bellar, the Jackson Citizen Patriot reported.
“It didn’t just happen on one day — it happened over multiple days,” Wilson said of the juror’s behavior. “I decided it’s safer to err on the side of caution.”
Wilson said he had never seen such behavior in nearly 35 years of practicing law. The juror took the decision well, he said.
MICHIGAN JURY CONVICTS 2 MEN OF CONSPIRACY TO KIDNAP GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER
William Rollstin, who is prosecuting the case for the Michigan attorney general, raised concerns before Wilson during a meeting in chambers Wednesday about eye contact and smiling between Bellar and the juror.
Several others in the courtroom, including Wilson and Bellar’s attorney, Andrew Kirkpatrick, also said they had seen interactions between the two since the trial began. But Kareem Johnson, who represents Musico, argued there “was no verbal communication between the two, and the descriptions of the communication are speculative.”
Bellar, 24, was an alleged member of a paramilitary group, the Wolverine Watchmen.
He is standing trial with co-defendants Joseph Morrison and Pete Musico. The three are charged in state court in Jackson, Michigan, with providing material support for a terrorist act.
The men have pleaded not guilty, claiming they were entrapped by an FBI informant and his handlers.
On the federal side, the first time the Justice Department tried to convince a jury that a group of men plotted to kidnap Whitmer from her vacation home in 2020 and instigate a national rebellion, they failed to get a conviction.
Authorities initially announced charges weeks before the presidential election between former President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden.
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In April, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta were found not guilty on all federal charges, while a jury deadlocked and could not reach a verdict for the two other defendants, Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr.
After a new trial, in which the judge kept out information about the acquittals and FBI informant texts, Fox and Croft, were convicted of federal crimes in connection to the plot.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.