DETROIT — Three months after their arrests, six men charged with plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer have been ordered to stand trial in March for their alleged roles in a scheme that was foiled by undercover FBI agents.
Chief U.S. District Judge Robert J. Jonker set the trial date for March 23 in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids, though that date is likely to get changed if past federal prosecutions involving militia members and threats against the government are any indication. For example, seven Hutaree militia members charged with plotting a violent revolt against the government were in prison for two years before their case went to trial in 2012, only to end with a judge dismissing all major charges in the case at the end of trial.
In this case, six men are charged with plotting to kidnap Whitmer for what prosecutors have described as anger over lockdown orders and mask mandates during the pandemic. The six suspects, who face up to life in prison if convicted of conspiracy to kidnap, not only talked about doing this, prosecutors have argued, but cased Whitmer’s vacation home multiple times, drew maps, and tried to buy explosives that would help them carry out their plan. An FBI agent alleges the suspects discussed blowing up a bridge near Whitmer’s vacation home to slow down law enforcement’s response.
According to courtroom testimony, the suspects talked about leaving Whitmer out on a boat in the middle of a lake, or possibly taking her to another state to stand trial for treason. Eight others accused in the alleged Whitmer plot have been charged with domestic terrorism charges in state court.
The alleged kidnap plot was foiled as FBI agents and an undercover informant had embedded the group and tracked the group’s movements, training exercises and discussions, court records show.
On Oct. 6, five of the suspects were arrested near Ypsilanti while going to make what they thought was a down payment on explosives and other gear. When they arrived, FBI agents were waiting and arrested them.
Defense lawyers have maintained that their clients were not part of any real plot to harm anyone, and that they were merely engaged in puffery and tough talk.
— Accused ringleader Adam Fox, 37, of Wyoming, who allegedly plotted the scheme out of a vacuum store where he lived just outside Grand Rapids.
— Kaleb Franks, 26, of Waterford
— Daniel Harris, 23, of Lake Orion
— Brandon Caserta, 32, of Canton Township
— Barry Croft Jr., 44, of Bear, Delaware
— Ty Garbin, 24, of Hartland Township
All suspects are locked up pending trial.
Story by Tresa Baldas.