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US 'They're amateurs': Feds say plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was dangerous, poorly planned

05:16  17 october  2020
05:16  17 october  2020 Source:   usatoday.com

One piece of alleged extremist plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer included a 'plan to target and kill police'

  One piece of alleged extremist plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer included a 'plan to target and kill police' Law enforcement is on high alert in Michigan as alleged plot involving alleged anti-government activists included targeting police."We're cautious. We're absolutely more careful," said First Lt. Mike Shaw of the Michigan State Police. "This is one of the tactics these anti-government, domestic terrorism groups use. Law enforcement is the face of the government. if you're mad at the government, you're mad at the police.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (R) welcomed The FBI and state police have thwarted a plan by anti- government extremists to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer to set off a “At one point, several members talked about state governments they believed were violating the US

Michigan Gov . Gretchen Whitmer , a Democrat, and others say they weren't surprised by the alleged plot to kidnap her after months of loathsome protests and bitter partisan battles. Whitmer . The Boiling Resentment Behind The Foiled Plan To Kidnap Gov .

DETROIT – Just because they weren't successful doesn't mean they weren't dangerous.

a painting of a man: (L to R) Defendant Brandon Caserta, his lawyer Michael Darragh Hills, along with defendants Adam Fox, center, and Ty Garbin during a hearing in front of Judge inside the Gerald R. Ford Federal Building and US Courthouse in Grand Rapids on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. © Jerry Lemenu, Jerry Lemenu (L to R) Defendant Brandon Caserta, his lawyer Michael Darragh Hills, along with defendants Adam Fox, center, and Ty Garbin during a hearing in front of Judge inside the Gerald R. Ford Federal Building and US Courthouse in Grand Rapids on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020.

This is what the prosecution argued in court Friday in convincing a judge to order six men to stand trial on charges they plotted for months to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer because they were angry over her lockdown order.

Michigan extremists plotted to kidnap Gov. Whitmer, start civil war. Here's why the state is a 'hotbed' for similar groups

  Michigan extremists plotted to kidnap Gov. Whitmer, start civil war. Here's why the state is a 'hotbed' for similar groups Michigan has had a long history of armed groups similar to the Wolverine Watchmen. The group is accused of plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.Michigan has had a long history of groups of armed men and women, which are active in every state, according to Amy Cooter, a senior lecturer at Vanderbilt University, who has studied them for more than a dozen years. Modern armed groups, she said, date to the early 1990s as a response to perceived fears of tyrannical government.

Gretchen Whitmer , according to the Michigan attorney general's office. They "made threats of violence intended to instigate a civil war, and engaged in planning and training for an operation to attack the capitol building of Michigan and to kidnap government officials, including the governor of

Michigan Gov . Gretchen Whitmer , the alleged target of a foiled kidnapping plot , says the threats against her and other officials haven't stopped. The Michigan governor accused the president and his administration of being "complicit" in the threats she and others are facing by giving

"Was it a good plan?" Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler argued in court Friday, adding: "It doesn't look like they discussed it much."

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And it cost them, he said.

"These people got caught because they're amateurs," Kessler said, stressing that just because the plan failed "it doesn't mean it wasn't dangerous."

U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally Berens agreed in concluding the government had probable cause to charge the six defendants with conspiracy to kidnap, despite objections by defense lawyers who called the kidnap claims "outlandish" and "absurd."

The alleged kidnapping plot against the Michigan governor as told in photos

  The alleged kidnapping plot against the Michigan governor as told in photos A photo series showing how the kidnapping plot against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer unfolded. Tensions between Whitmer, the state's second female governor, and right-wing activists have been playing out publicly, with large protests through the spring and summer as the governor instituted restrictions to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Gov . Gretchen Whitmer , here addressing her state after news of the alleged plot against her, said she could never have imagined anything like it. The plan solidified around an assault on the governor 's vacation home near Lake Michigan the FBI said . They knew it was somewhere close to the

Michigan Gov . Gretchen Whitmer joined “The View” on Tuesday and discussed the chilling allegations of a plot by an antigovernment group to kidnap her. “It’s very clear from the affidavits that it wasn’t simply to kidnap , it was to put me on a trial of some sort and then possibly execute me,” Whitmer

Berens also denied bond to four defendants this week. The accused ringleader, Adam Fox, consented to detention, which means he agreed to remain locked up pending the outcome of his case. A sixth suspect in the case was denied bond in Delaware and is awaiting extradition to Michigan.

All face up to life in prison if convicted.

Watch: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wants men who sought kidnapping to be brought to justice

Oct. 13: FBI says Virginia Gov. Northam was also targeted in plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Whitmer

Defense attorneys repeatedly argued in court this week that there was no real plan to kidnap Whitmer, but just angry gun enthusiasts talking tough among each other. They scoffed at allegations that the ringleader in the group wanted to take Whitmer out on a boat and leave her stranded in Lake Michigan.

They also balked at another claim that the group wanted to kidnap Whitmer and drive her to Wisconsin and try her for treason.

Trump says Whitmer didn't say 'thank you' after thwarted kidnapped plot. She did thank law enforcement

  Trump says Whitmer didn't say 'thank you' after thwarted kidnapped plot. She did thank law enforcement Whitmer thanked law enforcement in her press conference on Thursday but criticized Trump for his responses to hate groups.Seven additional people are also facing state charges pursuant to Michigan's anti-terrorism act in connection to the alleged plot.

Michigan Gov . Gretchen Whitmer wears a mask with the word "vote" displayed on the front during a roundtable discussion on health care, Wednesday, Oct. She said the state suspects had planned and trained for an operation to attack the Capitol in Lansing and had threatened violence in hopes to

Michigan Gov . Gretchen Whitmer joined “The View” on Tuesday and discussed the chilling allegations of a plot by an antigovernment group to kidnap her. “It’s very clear from the affidavits that it wasn’t simply to kidnap , it was to put me on a trial of some sort and then possibly execute me,” Whitmer

Who was going to drive her to Wisconsin? Where would she be tried? The defense lawyers asked, suggesting there was no real plan, just puffery.

"Really? Was there really an agreement here, or is it just loose talk,?" said defense attorney Scott Graham, claiming "common sense" suggests this was "loose talk."

"It's so outlandish," Graham said. "Was the agreement to cast her in a lake? ... That's how absurd it all is."

Following two days of testimony, however,  Berens concluded there was sufficient evidence to support the conspiracy to kidnap charge, citing, among other things, the surveillance of Whitmer's vacation home in the middle of the night.

The five members ordered to stand trial on a conspiracy to commit kidnapping are:

  • Adam "Alpha F--- You" Fox, 37, of Potterville
  • Ty Garbin, 25, of Hartland Township
  • Kaleb Franks, 26, known as "Red Hot"
  • Daniel Harris, 23, known as "Beaker"
  • Brandon Caserta, 32, known as "Debased Tyrant"

Barry Croft, 44, of Bear, Delaware, was also denied bond this week and is awaiting extradition to Michigan to face the conspiracy charge.

A credible threat or just talk?

Defense lawyers tried for two days to convince the judge that their clients deserved to be free on bond, arguing that the suspects were lawful gun owners who held training exercises, potlucks and even enjoyed playing paintball.

EXCLUSIVE: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is 'hanging in there' as Trump encourages supporters to 'lock her up' after the FBI thwarted a right-wing plot to kidnap and execute her

  EXCLUSIVE: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is 'hanging in there' as Trump encourages supporters to 'lock her up' after the FBI thwarted a right-wing plot to kidnap and execute her Whitmer called the Trump campaign "ridiculous" for suggesting that she was encouraging "assassination attempts" against the president."That's my phrase for 2020," she told Business Insider in an interview Tuesday morning.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer addresses the media about the flooding along the A local sheriff in Michigan has defended the group of people accused of forming a domestic terrorism plot to kidnap Gov . Are they trying to kidnap ? Because a lot of people are angry with the governor , and

Gretchen Whitmer on Oct. 8. Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting. 'Just Grab The Bitch': Militia Plotted To Kidnap Michigan Governor , Feds Say .

The FBI, though, had been watching the group for months and embedded paid informants and undercover agents in the group who recorded conversations and videotaped certain activities that led to criminal charges.

Attorney Mark Satawa, who is representing Garbin, argued that his client is a hard worker from a good family who has no criminal record. He asked the judge to release his client on bond and let him live with his parents, with a tether for added security. He argued that Garbin has "no criminal history at all," has a good job making $28 an hour as an airline mechanic, and that his father, an Army veteran, could keep an eye on him.

"There is nothing that my client could do to endanger the community under those set of circumstances," Satawa argued. "Lock Mr. Garbin up, sure. But at home."

Kessler disagreed, arguing Garbin participated in a dangerous plot to kidnap the governor, and was more than a "bystander."  Kessler told the judge that Garbin was actively involved in the plot in many ways, including:

  • He cased the governor's vacation home at night.
  • He texted about blowing up a bridge to slow police down.
  • He offered to paint his boat for "night fishing" as part of the kidnapping mission on the lake.
  • He had the ability to manufacture guns.

All of this, Kessler said, warranted keeping Garbin locked up, stressing neither his parents nor electronic devices could ensure the public's safety.

Michigan Republican linked to organizer of rally where militia allegedly plotted to kidnap Whitmer

  Michigan Republican linked to organizer of rally where militia allegedly plotted to kidnap Whitmer The rally drew numerous extremist groups, including the Proud Boys, the Boogaloo Bois and the alleged coup plotters John James and Gretchen Whitmer Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images

"He could leave," Kessler argued. "And we wouldn't know where he was."

According to an FBI affidavit, the accused ringleader,  Fox referred to Whitmer as a "tyrant b----itch" with "no checks and balances" who needed to be taken down. Fox lived in the basement of a Grand Rapids-area vacuum store with his two dogs, according to courtroom testimony.

The FBI says Fox was a member of the Michigan Home Guard militia group but left that group for unknown reasons, FBI agent  Richard Trask testified this week. He then became associated with members of the Wolverine Watchmen group, but it is not clear he ever became a member of the group, Trask told the court.

Fox was also associated with a group called the Michigan Patriot 3%, and was listed on a Facebook page as its leader or president, Trask testified. The agent testified he was not aware of Fox having connection with a group known as "bugaloo," which is a far-right anti-government movement.

An affidavit filed Thursday in a related case involving eight state defendants said Fox was a leader of the "Michigan III%ers," which the affidavit said was involved in planning "various acts of violence," including kidnapping politicians and storming the state Capitol in Lansing.

In court documents, the FBI portrays Fox as a rogue militia leader who looked for like-minded individuals on social media to wage a civil war against government officials he believed were overreaching. He was especially angry about Whitmer's lockdown order, court records show, and feared gun rights were at risk.

Sheriff in Michigan says plot to kidnap governor may have been LEGAL

  Sheriff in Michigan says plot to kidnap governor may have been LEGAL Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf in May took the stage at an anti-lockdown rally with William Null, who with his twin brother Michael Null is among the 13 charged in the kidnapping plot. 'It's just a charge, and they say a 'plot to kidnap' and you got to remember that. Are they trying to kidnap?' Leaf told WXMI-TV on Thursday.'Because a lot of people are angry with the governor, and they want her arrested. So are they trying to arrest or was it a kidnap attempt? Because you can still in Michigan if it's a felony, make a felony arrest,' Leaf said.

Fox's family has declined comment.

Defense: Case is just beginning

Following court appearances Friday, lawyers for the suspects continued to cast doubt on whether it was a serious plan or just one idea that was tossed around.

"We heard them describe several things, from a talk at the Capitol, demonstration at the Capitol, to possible kidnapping, to other things that they planned to do but never did," said Douglas Parker, attorney for Daniel Harris, in an interview following his client's morning appearance in federal court.

map: Parker Douglas, attorney for Daniel Harris, listens with his client during a hearing in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally J. Berens inside the Gerald R. Ford Federal Building and US Courthouse in Grand Rapids on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. © Jerry Lemenu Parker Douglas, attorney for Daniel Harris, listens with his client during a hearing in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally J. Berens inside the Gerald R. Ford Federal Building and US Courthouse in Grand Rapids on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020.

"So it raised questions for me. I don't know all of the messaging that went around between members. I don't know how many ideas they had to do things that they never followed through with, and that's one thing we (the defense attorneys) were all pulling out was, there's a bunch of talk — is there anything to it?"

Parker said his client, Harris, did not participate in the nighttime surveillance of Whitmer's vacation home. Prosecutors have used the surveillance trip, among other evidence, as proof that the plot was much more than "big talk."

"We're in such an early period," Parker said. "All I want people to know is that we're still in the early part of this case. We don't even have all the evidence that the government does, so all I'd say is keep an open mind, and until a jury says otherwise, these people are as innocent as you and I."

Satawa, a Southfield-based lawyer for Garbin, echoed Parker during interviews after the hearing on Friday. Satawa suggested freedom of speech and assembly would be key issues in the defense strategy.

“Lots of people own lots of guns. If I sit here and I say, ‘We’ve got to take Trump down,’ referencing the Nov. 3 election, am I committing a crime just because I own guns? Or does it take more than that?

8th man arrested in alleged plot to kidnap Michigan governor

  8th man arrested in alleged plot to kidnap Michigan governor An eighth individual has been arrested and charged for his alleged role in the foiled attempt to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, authorities said Thursday. © Nicole Hester/Ann Arbor News via AP Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wears a mask with the word "vote" displayed on the front during a roundtable discussion on healthcare, Oct. 7, 2020, in Kalamazoo, Mich. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced that Brian Higgins, 51, of Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, has been charged with material support of an act of terrorism, a felony that carries up to a 20-year sentence.

“We believe that when the full story is told our client will be vindicated in this case, but that needs to happen in there in the courthouse," said Satawa, "and not out here and in the newspapers.”

Follow Tresa Baldas on Twitter: @Tbaldas. Contributing: Eric Seals and M.L. Elrick; Carolyn Muyskens and Arpan Lobo, Holland Sentinel.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: 'They're amateurs': Feds say plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was dangerous, poorly planned

8th man arrested in alleged plot to kidnap Michigan governor .
An eighth individual has been arrested and charged for his alleged role in the foiled attempt to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, authorities said Thursday. © Nicole Hester/Ann Arbor News via AP Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wears a mask with the word "vote" displayed on the front during a roundtable discussion on healthcare, Oct. 7, 2020, in Kalamazoo, Mich. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced that Brian Higgins, 51, of Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, has been charged with material support of an act of terrorism, a felony that carries up to a 20-year sentence.

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