Kidnapping plot suspects appeared in court for hearings, lawyers of suspects react

Published: Oct. 13, 2020 at 11:38 AM EDT
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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WILX) - More revelations have come to light about the alleged plans by members of a Michigan-based group that’s facing multiple felony charges, including charges of terrorism, in a conspiracy to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and overthrow the state government.

On Tuesday, five federal defendants who are Michigan residents appeared with court-appointed attorneys for bond hearings. They are Adam Fox, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Brandon Caserta and Daniel Harris. A sixth federal defendant, Barry Croft, remains in Delaware where he was arrested. The six federal defendants have been held in custody since their Oct. 7 arrests.

Seven others linked to the paramilitary group called the Wolverine Watchmen have been charged in state court for allegedly seeking to storm the Michigan Capitol and providing material support for terrorist acts by seeking a “civil war.”

During the hearing FBI Special Agent Richard Trask said that some of the 13 suspects also targeted at least one other Democratic governor, Virginia’s Ralph Northam. Trask said that, as with Gov. Whitmer, the men were unhappy about Gov. Northam’s response to COVID-19 and the rules that were put n place to combat the disease.

“They discussed possible targets, taking a sitting governor, specifically issues with the governor of Michigan and Virginia based on the lockdown orders,” Trask told a Grand Rapids federal court.

Trask did not discuss further planning aimed at Northam.

During cross examination, lawyers for some of the defendants have argued that their clients were not wholly involved, being ignorant of or not an active participant in some parts of the plan, such as surveillance of the Governor’s home or discussions on planting explosives.

Agent Trask has pointed to 37-year-old Adam Fox as the ringleader of the group. According to Trask, it was Fox who ordered two surveillance operations of Whitmer’s vacation home. Fox also suggested taking Whitmer out on a boat, disabling the motor, and leaving her in the lake.

Part of the group’s efforts included submitting videos of themselves speed reloading weapons to an encrypted website for others in the group to view. In one that was uploaded to a public site instead, Brandon Caserta can be seen reloading a long gun with an empty magazine.

Warning: A t-shirt on the video below contains strong language.

The defense team for Kaleb Franks argued that he should be granted bond on the grounds that he is diabetic, and added that in their view he is not a flight risk. Nevertheless, the judge ordered that Kaleb Franks, Brandon Caserta and Daniel Harris be jailed without bond while awaiting trial, determining them to be dangers to the community.

On Tuesday, attorneys for Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, and Brandon Caserta said their clients were simply followers in the plot to kidnap Governor Whitmer.

They also claimed the alleged plan was just “talk between crackpots” and that there’s no proof they were actually going to try and kidnap the governor.

Lawyers for Ty Garbin and Adam Fox said they need more time to gather their evidence.

Garbin’s attorney, Gary Springstead, was appointed just before the hearing.

“I want to see the evidence myself. I want to review the tapes, the recordings, the video...I want to talk to witnesses, I want to get a better picture of what was actually going on-particularly from my client’s perspective,” said Springstead. “I want to figure out what the facts are, and I want to take a look at the law. Then, I can make a better assessment of where we stand in the case.”

Adam Fox and Ty Garbin will be held in jail until their eligibility for bond can be determined when the hearing resumes on Friday.

The defendants face up to life in prison if convicted.

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