DETROIT – A juror in a third trial involving a plan to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is being investigated over concerns that he is flirting with one of the defendants, smiling at her from the jury box and looking at her from time to time – so much so that the judge said he would continue to look at her.
“I see him looking directly at your client, and several times I’ve seen a smile come across his face. It’s enough that it’s drawing my attention,” Jackson County Circuit Judge Thomas Wilson told the defendant’s attorney, adding: “I’m going to listen carefully. … I don’t know if I’m going to fire him or not.” no.”
Indicted is Paul Bellar, 22, of Milford, Michigan, the youngest defendant in a domestic violence case that is now in federal court after four defendants were convicted, and two others were found not guilty in federal court.
‘JUROR CRIMINAL CRIMES’:Convicted Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer kidnaps organizers who send a private investigator to a juror’s office.
Smiles and Skittles
The prosecutor raised the issue during Wednesday’s trial, telling the judge that not only was the juror playing with Bellar, but it looked like he might be playing. They smile and nod at each other, the prosecutor said, adding that Bellar clenched his fists and shook them as if the juror was looking at him.
“We are very concerned about this judge,” the prosecutor said.
Bellar’s lawyer admitted that he, too, had seen two exchange eyes. But he had an explanation for why Bellar was seen shaking his fists.
He was holding a Skittles candy in his hand, his lawyer said.
“The fist shaking is caused by Skittles … ’cause guess what? It’s his birthday today,” defense attorney Andrew Kirkpatrick said, adding that his client was behaving himself.
“I’ve seen his kind of look. He knows. But he’s not looking at her. He’s not doing anything to encourage it,” Kirkpatrick said. “I don’t think that’s a basis for removing this juror. Maybe he likes him – maybe he doesn’t. There’s no way to tell what’s on a juror’s mind.”
‘RUGE SETBACK’:Will the feds throw in the towel on stealing Gov. Whitmer?
‘He should look over there’
Defense attorneys for the other two defendants also objected to the juror’s questioning of romance, with one calling the comments sexual.
“Just because a young woman is looking at it – (termination) has to be a romantic act,” said defense attorney Kareem Johnson, who represents Pete Musico. “People have laughed during this trial. People have laughed during this trial. I totally disagree with the court or talking to the judge. He needs to look at this.”
Defense attorney Leonard Ballard, who is representing Joe Morrison, also objected to the judge questioning the juror, calling such questioning “bad.”
“Why does she lie? Because she’s a woman? Because she’s young?” Ballard said.
The judge could question the juror in private and ask him about his actions – which was done in federal trials when news of the juror’s actions came out. But he said he would stop doing that anyway.
Hate speech cases are hard to win:So police, prosecutors use workarounds to arrest white extremists
Meanwhile, the prosecution is continuing as the trial has reached its eighth day. The state’s witness who broke the story, a whistleblower known as Big Dan, is next on the stand. Big Dan’s captor, FBI agent Henrik Impola, was held for seven days before being released on Wednesday.
Morrison, Musico, and Bellar are accused of providing support for terrorist activities, including kidnapping the governor and killing law enforcement officers. They were members of the Wolverine Watchmen, a self-described military group that trained near Jackson.
They are not charged with directly participating in the kidnapping plan, only with helping to train key players in that plan, which was disrupted by the FBI in October 2020 with the help of informants and agents who had infiltrated the group.
Testimony continues Thursday morning.