JACKSON COUNTY, Mich. (WXYZ) — In Jackson County’s small community of Munith, Pete Musico and his wife lived with their daughter’s families, including his son-in-law Joseph Morrison, in a three-generation household.
Pictures show a happy family. So, how did Musico and Morrison get caught up in a joint federal and state investigation that exposed a plot to target law enforcement officers, attack the State Capitol building and kidnap government officials including Governor Gretchen Whitmer back in 2020?
For the first time since the investigation was announced back on October 8, 2020, the family is speaking out, telling their side.
“The verdict is not right,” said Kala Naramore.
Naramore says Pete Musico is her dad and Joseph Morrison is her brother-in-law. The men both were convicted of firearm violations, gang membership, and providing material support for terrorist acts under Michigan’s Anti-Terrorism Act.
“They didn’t know about any kind of plan. The people who were supposedly making this plan didn’t want them in it,” said Crystal Musico, the wife of Pete Musico and mother-in-law of Joseph Morrison
Crystal Musico says what people don’t understand, is that not everyone was charged the same for a reason.
Federal prosecutors announced charges against six people for conspiracy to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Her husband and son-in-law were not in that group of people who federal investigators say performed surveillance at the Whitmer vacation home and acquired explosives.
“My family is not like that. We don’t go out to hurt people. Even people who have hurt us, because God has got that,” said Crystal Musico.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced separate state charges against seven individuals known to be members of the militia group, Wolverine Watchmen, or associates of Wolverine Watchmen. Pete Musico and Joseph Morrison were founders of the Wolverine Watchmen.
Crystal and Kala Naramore say Musico and Morrison founded the Wolverine Watchmen to bring survivalists together as they saw police brutality, protests, and then society shut down in response to the pandemic.
“Think back to that time. We were watching cities being given up,” said Crystal.
“We were struggling. We all have children to feed and without work, we can’t feed our kids,” said Kala, describing how the pandemic lockdowns impacted her family.
Crystal says the group shared knowledge of hunting, surviving in the elements, and self-defense.
“We were called terrorists, but were not. We’re survivalists,” said Crystal.
Investigators called the Wolverine Watchmen an extreme militia group that assisted terrorists.
The charge came in part because some of the men charged federally, who were part of a conspiracy to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer took part in firearms and tactical training on the Musico property.
“They are trying to tear my family apart over lies, over a guy coming to our house twice and one dinner,” said Crystal.
The FBI and Michigan State Police shared evidence collected during meetings and from social media posts as it charged them. One example, Morrison’s social media pages made reference to Governor Whitmer, saying “One, two, I’m coming for you, three, four, better lock your door.”
Investigators say Musico told an FBI informant about his “three plan." It involved going to law enforcement and politicians’ homes at 3 a.m. and executing no-knock raids, then either executing or kidnapping them.
Crystal says in context, it was not a threat. She says he explicitly said it was fantasy, not something he would do.
“The "three plan" that they talk about so much. They didn’t make sure everyone saw where my husband said, that’s stupid,” she said. “My husband and son-in-law say they don’t like overreaching cops, and overreaching officials and tyrants need to hang—and they are looking at 20 plus years.”
Crystal says the men did not intend to go to law enforcement homes, kidnap the governor, or support others carrying out these actions. She says they didn’t want tyrants to hang. It was said to make a point.
“They want things to change,” she said.
Crystal and Kala both say Pete Musico was trying to research the laws and seek change lawfully. He talked about running for office or starting a church to win hearts and minds. They say his research into the law has been twisted.
“Actually my dad said he wanted to do what he legally had to do to do a citizen’s arrest,” said Kala.
“He was actually,” confirmed Crystal.“They were actively trying to find an attorney and a judge to help them with the steps they needed to do it legally.”
To be clear, a citizen doesn’t have the right to arrest an elected official because they believe they are violating their civil rights. That would be kidnapping. Legal experts say the proper path to justice is through a civil lawsuit.
Crystal says her husband wanted to do what he legally could. From her perspective, her loved ones are guilty by association. Because they had a survivalist club, she says they inadvertently taught skills to people planning terrorism.
Investigators do not deny that Musico and Morrison may not have been involved in the details of the federal conspiracy.
“If this is allowed to go on more people are going to be wronged,” said Crystal.
Kala and Crystal have a message for Governor Whitmer.
“I pray everything goes wonderful for you. My family never wanted anything to happen to you. Never,” said Crystal.
“My dad and my brother mean no ill-harm to you. And I just want them back home. I want my family back,” said Kala.
The men are scheduled to learn their sentences in December. The maximum penalties for their charges carry more than 40 years in prison.