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AG Nessel eyes guns in the capitol after Wolverine Watchmen sentencing

Reginald Hardwick

Michigan’s attorney general is setting her sights forward following the sentencing of three men Thursday in a plot to kidnap the governor.

Among those priorities is seeing through a trial of five remaining suspects being bound over in Antrim County.

Attorney General Dana Nessel recommends they cooperate with authorities as two others who faced federal charges in the conspiracy did. Those two ended up receiving lower prison terms than their counterparts sentencedin state court in Jackson County Thursday.

“Every criminal defendant has the right to a jury trial if that is what he would like,” Nessel told reporters. “But what often happens during the course of that trial is lots and lots and lots of evidence comes out that now the court hears, and the court considers.”

Aside from looking to continue prosecution in the kidnapping plot, Nessel said she’s working to ban guns from the state Capitol building -- a policy goal pushed forward in part by the actions of the men sentenced in Jackson County. Those men attended a 2020 rally in Lansing to protest Governor Gretchen Whitmer's emergency orders, and carried assault-style rifles inside the capitol building.

Current policy blocks the open carry of firearms but still leaves the door open for licensed concealed weapons.

Attorney General Dana Nessel said she “absolutely” expects that to change.

“This is not unheard of, we would not be the first capitol building to prohibit firearms. First of all, let’s remember that in every courthouse in this state, firearms are not permitted,” Nessel said.

After armed protesters entered the state Capitol in 2020, the Republican-led Legislature didn’t reach an agreement on changing the gun policy in the building, so the duty fell to the Capitol Commission. That’s a six-person group made of some appointees, the secretary of the Senate and the clerk of the House.

The group settled on the open-carry ban as a compromise, but critics said it didn’t go far enough to ensure public safety.

“I really think it’s incumbent upon the Legislature and then working with the governor to actually offer a law so that you don’t have just this handful of appointed people making a decision really for the entirety of the public,” Nessel told reporters.

Another topic on the horizon for the attorney general is the future of lawyers who she said filed frivolous lawsuits trying to delegitimize the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Nessel said those who use the court system to baselessly spread distrust in elections shouldn’t be able to continue practicing law.

“If you have facts and you have evidence and you have the law to support the filing of such pleadings, then absolutely that’s your right to do so. What you don’t have the right to do is to file meritless lawsuits that are not based on facts,” she said.

Nessel and other state officials filed complaints with Michigan’s Attorney Grievance Commission to disbar attorneys that worked with former President Donald Trump on a series of lawsuits nicknamed the “kraken.”

Those included Texas attorney Sidney Powell and Michigan lawyers Gregory Rohl, Stefanie Junttila, and Richard Hagerstrom.

Late last year, a lower court granted sanctions against the group for their participation in the lawsuits.

Last week, a federal court held a hearing on their appeal.

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