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Court hearing resumes Friday in plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer

Published: Oct. 16, 2020 at 8:06 AM EDT
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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WILX, AP) - Five of the men accused in a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will be back in a federal courtroom in Grand Rapids on Friday, as a hearing on whether there is enough evidence to charge them continues.

Since the last court hearing on Tuesday, another suspect has been charged in federal court in the scheme. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office says that Brian Higgins, 51, of Wisconsin Dells, has been charged with material support of an act of terrorism.

Prosecutors allege that Higgins helped the “Wolverine Watchmen” with surveillance of Gov. Whitmer’s vacation home. Authorities say Higgins gave night-vision goggles and a dashboard camera to some of the other suspects.

Higgins will be extradited to Michigan, but no court date has been set for him.

Meanwhile, two of the other suspects facing federal charges will be back in court today for a bond hearing. U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally Berens is expected to decide if supposed ringleader Adam Fox, originally from Potterville, and Ty Garbin, will be granted bail.

Berens ruled Tuesday that Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, and Brandon Caserta would be held without bail. One other suspect, Deleware resident Barry Croft, is supposed to be extradited to Michigan.

The preliminary hearing began Tuesday and featured hours of testimony by a lead FBI agent on the case, revealing new detail about investigators' use of confidential informants, undercover agents, and encrypted communication to thwart the purported scheme.

Agent Richard Trask also said members of anti-government paramilitary groups from several states discussed abducting Whitmer or Virginia’s Democratic governor, Ralph Northam, during a June meeting in Ohio.

Fox and Croft were among those who attended that session, according to testimony and federal court documents. But it was not clear if talk of targeting Northam went beyond that meeting, and nothing from the complaint or Trask’s testimony indicated that anyone had been charged with a plot involving Northam.

The men could get up to life in prison if convicted.

Several of their defense attorneys implied during questioning on Tuesday that their clients were “big talkers” who did not intend to follow through with action.

Prosecutors, though, said some of the men conducted surveillance of Whitmer’s northern Michigan house in August and September and four of the men had planned to meet last week to pay for explosives and exchange tactical gear.

Seven other men purportedly linked to an extremist paramilitary group called the Wolverine Watchmen were charged in state court last week with providing material support for terrorist acts and possession of a firearm while committing a felony.

WILX will be inside the federal courtroom Friday and will continue to update this story when more details become available.

Copyright 2020 WILX. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.