Michigan Sheriffs' Association condemns sheriff who defended suspects in Whitmer kidnapping plot

Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf. - Barry County
Barry County
Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf.

The Michigan Sheriffs’ Association delivered a sharp rebuke to the Barry County sheriff for making “dangerous” comments in support of the 13 men who have been charged in the alleged plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer — a plot that also called for targeting law enforcement officers.

Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf appeared to defend the suspects, falsely suggesting Michigan law authorizes residents to “arrest” the governor for committing "a felony."

The suggestion drew criticism from Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, who pointed out on Twitter that “persons who are not sworn, licensed members of a law enforcement agency cannot and should not ‘arrest’ government (officials) with whom they have disagreements.” Nessel also called the Leaf’s remarks “dangerous.”

In an open letter, Matthew M. Saxton, executive director and CEO of the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association, lambasted Leaf's apparent defense of “what appears to be organized domestic terrorists.”

“It is, frankly, disheartening that any law enforcement official with any time in service of his or her oath could respond that way,” Saxton wrote. “His comments were dangerous, and let me be clear, there is nothing about this alleged plot that could be construed as legal, moral, or American.”

Amid calls for his resignation, Leaf said he’s not stepping down.

Leaf’s statement came after he shared a stage with some of the suspects at a rally against Whitmer’s executive orders. In an interview with Fox 17, he said the suspects had been “nice and respectful to him” and should not be castigated in the media until they get a fair trial.

“A lot of people are angry with the governor and they want her arrested. So are they trying to arrest or was it a kidnap attempt?” Leaf said.

“It doesn’t say if you’re in elected office that you’re exempt from that arrest. I have to look at it from that angle and I’m hoping that’s more of what it is,” he said. “It’s just a charge, and they say a 'plot to kidnap' and you got to remember that. Are they trying to kidnap? Because a lot of people are angry with the governor, and they want her arrested. So are they trying to arrest or was it a kidnap attempt? Because you can still in Michigan if it's a felony, make a felony arrest."

Leaf didn’t say what felony he believed Whitmer was committing. He previously pledged he would not enforce Whitmer’s executive orders that were intended to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

After he’s come under intense scrutiny, the Facebook page for the sheriff’s office has been removed.

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About The Author

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling is an award-winning investigative journalist who operated Motor City Muckraker, an online news site devoted to exposing abuses of power and holding public officials accountable. Neavling also hosted Muckraker Report on 910AM from September 2017 to July 2018. Before launching Motor City Muckraker,...
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