Motion seeks indictment dismissal for 5 charged in Whitmer kidnapping plot due to ‘government overreach’

Defense attorneys argue that government entrapped those charged in alleged scheme

In October of 2020, federal officials charged more than a dozen people in what they called a “violent” militia scheme to kidnap Whitmer and overthrow the state government

Attorneys for the defendants in the alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer are requesting the indictment be dropped for five men charged in the case, arguing that the government orchestrated the plot and entrapped those accused.

In October of 2020, federal officials charged more than a dozen people in what they called a “violent” militia scheme to kidnap Whitmer and overthrow the state government, reportedly in response to Whitmer’s executive orders issued amid the coronavirus pandemic. Those accused of participating in the scheme were from several different states.

Five Michigan residents -- Adam Fox, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta -- and Barry Croft, of Delaware, have been charged with conspiring to kidnap Whitmer. Court documents filed in April state that Fox, Croft and Harris are now also charged with knowingly conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction against persons or property in addition to the kidnapping conspiracy charge.

More: New federal charges added in Whitmer kidnapping plot investigation

The five men have been in custody since. Their trial was initially scheduled for October 12, but has been postponed and may take place in February or March of next year.

On Dec. 25, a motion was filed on behalf of Fox, Croft, Franks, Harris and Caserta, requesting the superseding indictment against the men be dismissed due to “government overreaching and misconduct.” Much like claims made in court documents in August, the attorneys argued Saturday that paid undercover FBI informants who assisted with the case were actually the ones who suggested and encouraged kidnapping the governor, and not those charged.

The informants were reportedly working at the instruction of federal officials.

The motion claims that the defendants were manipulated and coerced into the scheme, even though it was not their idea and they initially and repeatedly rejected the idea. It is illegal for informants and agents to plan and encourage criminal activity, even amid an investigation.

Defense attorneys argue that the government overreached in an effort to entrap the defendants amid a politically polarized time in the U.S.

“Three months after the government proposed kidnapping, and two months after the defendants’ strident repudiation of the idea, and a month after the defendants’ reiteration of their repudiation, the government’s agents continued to push to shape a kidnapping plan, even trying to elevate it to murder,” the court documents read. “With regard to ‘inducement’ and ‘persuasion,’ the government’s emotional manipulation abounded. Its approach was persistent and emotional from the outset. Agents and informants used ties related to friendship, being role models, and acting as father figures to develop trust and reliance in the defendants.”

You can find the entire motion filed Saturday below.

Croft, Harris and Fox face up to life in prison if convicted of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction. An indictment from April alleges that the three men intended use the devices to destroy a nearby bridge, harming Whitmer’s security detail and any responding officers.

Additionally, that indictment alleges that on Sept, 13, 2020, Croft and Harris knowingly possessed a destructive device that was not registered to them in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record, as required by federal law.

All five men each face up to life in prison if convicted of the kidnapping conspiracy charge.

In January, 25-year-old Ty Garbin, from Hartland, Michigan, pleaded guilty for his role in the alleged plot after making a plea deal with prosecutors. The man, a member of the Wolverine Watchmen militia, was sentenced to just over 6 years in prison in August after assisting investigators with the case.

Amid arguments of entrapment, Garbin’s attorney said his client’s plea deal means the plot was very real and more than just talk.

“That factual basis lays out a relatively real set of facts related to the accusations and allegations in this case,” said attorney Mark Satawa in August. “That is one of the reasons the client did what he did today, which is, to say, ‘I got to own what I did. It doesn’t feel right.’”

Several others have been charged in connection with the alleged plot, but at the state level.

Find the entire Dec. 25 court document below.

More: Complete coverage on the Whitmer kidnapping plot

About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.