Trial Begins in Bizarre Plot to Kidnap Governor

Four men accused in Michigan are expected to use an entrapment defense
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 8, 2022 1:26 PM CST
Prosecutors on Whitmer Kidnap Plot: Suspects Sought to Blow Up Bridge
Barry Croft.   (Delaware Department of Justice via AP, File)

(Newser) – With secret recordings and other evidence, prosecutors are pledging to show how four men were united behind a wild plot to kidnap Michigan's governor in response to her aggressive steps to slow down COVID-19 during the early months of the pandemic. Jury selection began Tuesday in a trial that could last more than a month in federal court in western Michigan, per the AP. In 2020, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, was trading taunts with then-President Trump over his administration's response to COVID-19. Her critics, meanwhile, were regularly protesting at the Michigan Capitol, clogging streets around the statehouse and legally carrying semi-automatic rifles into the building.

During that turbulent time, when stay-home orders were in place and the economy was restricted, Adam Fox, Brandon Caserta, Barry Croft Jr., and Daniel Harris were coming up with a plot to snatch Whitmer, prosecutors say. They're accused of taking critical steps over several months, including secret messaging, gun drills in the woods, and a night drive to northern Michigan to scout her second home and figure out how to blow up a bridge. The FBI, which had infiltrated the group, said it thwarted the plan with the arrests of six men in October 2020. Two of them, Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks, have pleaded guilty and will appear as witnesses for the government.

Garbin, for example, said Fox, the alleged ringleader, wanted the men to chip in for a $4,000 explosive large enough to destroy a bridge near Whitmer's home and distract police during a kidnapping. "The blood of tyrants needs to be shed," Garbin quoted Caserta as saying. Prosecutors said much of the evidence will be the defendants' own words gathered during secret recordings. Ahead of the trial, defense lawyers panned the case, especially the "staggering use" of informants. They deny any conspiracy to kidnap Whitmer and signaled an entrapment defense. Whitmer, seeking reelection this year, rarely talks publicly about the case and isn't expected to attend the trial.

(Read more Michigan stories.)

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