Local 4 has learned more Friday about the alleged plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and start a civil war in Michigan.
The attack was supposed to be carried out this month at Whitmer’s vacation home in northern Michigan. It was stopped by state police and FBI agents.
13 men charged
In all, 13 men were arrested after the conspiracy was uncovered -- six in connection with the actual kidnapping scheme and seven for their association with the Wolverine Watchmen group. NBC News reports many of the men have links to the “boogaloo” national anti-government movement.
Adam Fox, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, Brandon Caserta and Barry Croft are charged with conspiring to kidnap Whitmer.
Paul Bellar, Shawn Fix, Eric Molitor, Michael Null, William Null, Pete Musico and Joseph Morrison are facing a combined 19 charges, ranging from threat of terrorism to gang membership to firearm violations.
Court documents reveal the attack was being planned for months, starting during the March coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown. That’s when the Wolverine Watchmen caught the FBI’s attention.
In June, the men involved in the kidnapping conspiracy started meeting with members of the Wolverine Watchmen and recruiting others to their ranks. Audio recordings obtained by the FBI through a confidential informant revealed a plan to abduct Whitmer, whisk her off to Wisconsin and put her on “trial” for perjury.
In July, they started training with guns and experimenting with homemade explosives.
In August, men started to conduct surveillance of Whitmer’s vacation home.
Fix, 38, of Belleville appeared in court Friday morning via Zoom. He’s being held at the Antrim County Jail on charges of providing support for terrorists acts and carrying a gun during the commission of a felony.
Whitmer on kidnapping plot: ‘They’re not militias. They’re domestic terrorists’
“I consider this defendant, as well as the others, extremely dangerous,” Assistant Attorney General Gregory Townsend said. “They belong to a group, a militia group, called the Wolverine Watchmen. All these individuals were committed to violence to target government, government officials, politicians.”
Townsend accused Fix of being linked to Fox’s scheme to kidnap the governor.
Defense attorney Paul Jarboe said Fix’s only criminal history was a drunken driving offense in 2009.
Fix said he works as a truck driver. Jarboe said Fix lives with his fiance and her three minor children, who he supports financially.
A not guilty plea was entered for Fix. He is being held in lieu of $250,000 bail, cash/surety and will have to wear a GPS tether and remain under home arrest if bond is posted. He cannot leave the state of Michigan or possess weapons.
Fix isn’t allowed to have any contact with Whitmer or anyone related to her, or go within 500 yards of her workplace and residences.
“You’ll have no contact, in any manner whatsoever, with any member of the group known currently as Wolverine Watchmen, or any other member of any terrorist, militia, or other similar group,” 86th District Court Magistrate Tammy Rodgers said.
She also prohibited him from communicating with codefendants.
A probable cause conference will be scheduled on or before Oct. 21, and a preliminary examination is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Oct. 28.
You can watch the full arraignment below.
Gunshots heard in Munith
More than 200 state and federal agents have been monitoring the group for months, and it took a paid informant to dismantle a plot the FBI says aimed to kidnap Whitmer and overthrow the Michigan government.
A home on Dunn Road in Munith, Michigan, was raided early Thursday. Neighbors in the area have been fed up with all the shooting there in recent months.
“Beautiful country out here, and now all of a sudden, out of the peace and quiet, ‘Bam, b-b-bam, b-b-bam,’ for hours,” said the woman who lives next door to the Munith home. “I was going to confront them a couple of times. My husband said, ‘No, don’t. That’s why people move to the country.' I thought, ‘Well, the times we’ve got, with the gun rights and so on, I’d better not say anything.'"
Investigators said the men involved were formulating their plan and focusing on Whitmer’s vacation home.
“It’s concerning that they went to the effort of identifying her vacation home, and most likely surveilled it,” security expert Ned Timmons said.
In addition to the shooting, neighbors in Munith said they saw several men in “militia fatigues” at the home on Dunn Road. They said they recently heard something more than gunfire.
“Yesterday, my husband heard a ‘boom,' so apparently that was the IED (improvised explosive device) being tested,” the woman who lives next door said. “It shook our windows and kind of scared us.”
More specific accusations
“I announced the following preliminary charges pursuant to Michigan Anti-Terrorism Act against seven individuals, all of whom are now in custody, linked to the militia group Wolverine Watchmen, and associates of Wolverine Watchmen,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said.
William Null was also seen in video from an armed rally at the Capitol Building in Lansing. He, Michael Null and Molitor have all been formally charged, officials said.
Fox, 34, of Grand Rapids, is accused of holding meetings at his business in Grand Rapids, where he had a secret trap door hidden underneath a rug, according to the criminal complaint.
Garbin, 24, of Hartland, had his home raided Wednesday.
Franks, of Waterford Township; Harris, 23, of Lake Orion; and Caserta, 32, of Canton Township don’t have any known criminal history.
Croft is the only non-Michigan resident named in the kidnapping scheme. He is a resident of Delaware.
Most of the men have no criminal history, but some of them are now facing life in prison.
Lt. Gov. Gilchrist responds
Local 4 spoke with Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist about the alleged plot.
“They wanted to recruit 200 people to storm the capital and take hostages,” Gilchrist said. “That means lawmakers, their staffs, the staff of the Capitol Building and any people who happened to be in the building on that day. Two of the men who were apprehended (the Null brothers) by law enforcement were people who I saw with my own eyes with long guns in the Senate gallery during one of these days when these armed men came into the Capitol, so we need to take these things seriously.”
The state Capitol is just one of two in the country that allowed people to bring firearms inside. Gilchrist said he’s hopeful legislation will be put in place to stop that.
Trump, Biden react to plot
President Donald Trump criticized Whitmer during an interview with Sean Hannity.
“I see Whitmer today, she’s complaining, but it was our Justice Department that arrested the people that she was complaining about,” Trump said. “It was my Justice Department that arrested them, but instead she goes and does her little political act and she keeps her state closed, although we just won the big case, as you know, to open up Michigan, because what she’s doing is a horrible thing to the people.”
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden also reacted to the news of the kidnapping plot.
“The senator talked to Gretchen, the governor, earlier, before I landed, and I talked to her,” Biden said. “She’s feeling secure and good, and I think that the FBI and others deserve a great deal of credit for what they’ve done.”
You can hear what Whitmer said about the plot during a Thursday news conference in the video below.
Listen to Nessel’s full comments during her Thursday news conference in the video below.