Federal Grand Jury Formally Indicts 6 Men for Conspiracy to Kidnap Michigan Governor Over COVID Policies

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

By Mia Machado

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced Thursday that a federal grand jury has indicted six men for conspiring to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer—reportedly in retaliation to her coronavirus policies.

Investigators charge the six men in question—Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, and Brandon Caserta—were anti-government extremists with a particular hatred for Governor Gretchen Whitmer, whom they called a “tyrant.”

The men, all Michigan residents except for Croft who lives in Delaware, were arrested and have been held in custody since October, when a magistrate judge determined there was enough evidence to keep them detained.

Though not formally charged with a crime until now, if convicted, each is likely to face up to life in prison.

The investigation of the case is ongoing, currently being conducted not only by FBI agents of the Detroit Field Office but other members of their Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), including the Michigan State Police.

FBI agents and JTTF members in both the Baltimore and Milwaukee Field Offices are also currently involved.

Despite the continuing investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan has released extensive evidence collected about the six men during a two-part preliminary hearing in federal court in Grand Rapids, which occurred last Tuesday and Friday.

Included in the exhibits released to the public late on Friday were 24 files containing screenshots of text messages, videos, and audio recordings of the men throughout the months of early June to early October as they developed their alleged plan.

Detailed in the indictment released by USA Birge are the progressive steps allegedly taken by the six men, as they fine-tuned their plan to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

The plan allegedly began “on or about June 6, 2020,” when Fox and Croft met in Dublin, Ohio, to “discuss anti-government actions, including the kidnapping of state governors, and recruiting like-minded individuals to their cause.”

Attending a Second Amendment rally at the state Capitol Building in Lansing on June 18, Fox met with Garbin, a leader of the Michigan-based “militia” group called the Wolverine Watchmen. Later, on June 20, it is alleged that Fox and Garbin, along with other Wolverine Watchmen members, “proposed working together toward their common goals.”

It was early July, say investigators, when Croft allegedly traveled from Delaware to Wisconsin to attend a “field training exercise” with the other members of the group, where they “practiced combat tactics, including assaulting motor vehicles using semiautomatic assault rifles and live ammunition.”

Plans progressed when Harris allegedly established a new encrypted messaging group for the conspirators, including Garbin, Franks, Harris, and Caserta on August 23. This way, the men would be able to instantly delete incriminating information if confronted by federal law enforcement, according to investigators.

Defense attorneys for the indicted men claim that their clients were simply “big talkers” who never intended to follow through on the alleged plan. And much of the activity allegedly conducted by the men between June and when they were arrested in October was perfectly legal on its own.

But U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler argued in court on Friday that “there’s nothing wrong with being upset with your government, or your governor.” However, he added, what makes it criminal is the “totality of the circumstances” over time.

As outlined in the indictment, over time the group’s strong rhetoric and “field training exercises” escalated to what appears to allegedly be a detailed and actionable plan.

He noted on Aug. 29, Fox conducted daytime surveillance of Governor Whitmer’s vacation home, and “drew a map on which he noted approximate distances from the home to police first responders.”

And, at a training exercise over the weekend of Sept. 12-13, the men “practiced assaulting a building in teams, and discussed tactics for fighting the Governor’s security detail with improvised explosive devices, a projectile launcher, and other weapons.”

On their way to the vacation home on the night of September 12, Fox and Croft “stopped to inspect the underside of a highway bridge” close by, looking for a place to “mount an explosive charge,” and, according to prosecutors, their plan was to blow up the bridge near the Governor’s vacation home “in order to cut off the road to the nearest police station.”

Their plan, however, came to an end when Fox “ordered $4,000 worth of explosives from an undercover FBI agent posing as a co-conspirator,” on Sept. 13, and again unsuspectingly meeting with another undercover agent on Oct. 7.

On that day, Fox, Garbin, Harris, and Frank were arrested at the location they presumed to be the meeting spot to purchase more explosives. Caserta was picked up at his job, and Croft in Delaware.

The Grand Jury has decided that there is enough evidence to bring the six men to face trial on the charges listed in the indictment. Eight other men involved will face criminal charges at the state level.

So far, five of the six men have pleaded not guilty to all charges detailed in the Grand Jury indictment, while the sixth man, Croft, has yet to be arraigned.

Mia Machado is a junior at UC Davis, currently majoring in Political Science-Public Service and minoring in Luso-Brazilian studies. She is originally from Berkeley, California

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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