Men Charged in Gretchen Whitmer Plot Try to Boot Indictment
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Men Accused of Plotting to Kidnap Gov. Whitmer Accuse Feds of ‘Egregious Overreaching’ in Bid to Dismiss Indictment

 

Gretchen Whitmer

The men charged with plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) tried to dismiss their indictment on Christmas, alleging “egregious overreaching by the government’s agents” whom they accused of entrapment.

“The key to the government’s plan was to turn general discontent with Governor Whitmer’s COVID-19 restrictions into a crime that could be prosecuted,” their attorneys wrote in a 20-page motion to dismiss on Saturday. “The government picked what it knew would be a sensational charge: conspiracy to kidnap the governor. When the government was faced with evidence showing that the defendants had no interest in a kidnapping plot, it refused to accept failure and continued to push its plan.”

This past April, federal prosecutors leveled weapons of mass destruction charges against the accused plotters Adam Fox, Barry Croft Jr., and Daniel Joseph Harris. The trio were first indicted on lesser charges in December 2020, along with Kaleb FranksBrandon Caserta, and Ty Garbin.

Garbin pleaded guilty to the kidnapping plot in January and received a more than six-year prison sentence.

In July, BuzzFeed News reported that the FBI was aware of the anti-Whitmer plot throughout its duration and engaged in activity that one defendant, at the time, alleged to be entrapment. Now five remaining accused plotters have signed that entrapment claim, an often-alleged and rarely successful defense in domestic terrorism cases.

“The facts show that there was no conspiracy,” the lawyers wrote in their motion. “In the alternative, because the government overreached and committed serious acts of misconduct against defendants who had repudiated the government’s suggested wrongdoing, the defense can establish entrapment as a matter of law.”

The motion was signed by all of the remaining defendants’ lawyers: Christopher Gibbons, representing Fox; Scott Graham, representing Franks; Joshua A. Blanchard, representing Croft; Julia Kelly, representing Harris; and Michael Hills, representing Caserta.

“The government conceived and controlled every aspect of the alleged plot,” the defense wrote.

Illustrating the claim, the motion includes a text message allegedly sent by FBI agent Jayson Chambers to a confidential human source going by the name of Dan on Sept. 5, 2020.

“Mission is to kill the governor specifically,” the text message read.

The defense attorneys argue: “Three months after the government proposed kidnapping, and two months after the defendants’ strident repudiation of the idea, and a month after the defendants’ reiteration of their repudiation, the government’s agents continued to push to shape a kidnapping plan, even trying to elevate it to murder.”

The same confidential source is quoted at length by defense attorneys at a “national” militia meeting in Peebles, Ohio, in remarks described as an effort to “radicalize” their clients:

And this right here, is why the fuck I’m telling you, its being allowed by [Ohio Gov. Mike] DeWine here, fucking shit face Whitface or whatever her name is there, Blackface fucking there…why are we not returning the same measure that we are being given? Why are we giving quarter when no quarter is being given? Motherfuckers are going to throw shit at us, why aren’t we throwing shit back? Why are we not fucking…This is why I am saying I agree with you 100%. This has to happen. I agree 100% with you guys. That shit has to fucking happen. Because if not, this shit right here, is going to continue to kill us in our back fucking yards.

According to the memo, the government sponsored a “training” session in Cambria, Wisconsin, which boasted ” medical…live fire…range…kill house/with breach and entry stack…close quarters weapons protection…if time knife and hand to hand…lunch and dinner sat.”

“While the defendants could not afford to travel to this event, Dan made it easy for them: he paid for the entire trip,” the defense motion states. “He drove and paid for gas and tolls. He paid for rooms and meals.”

An entrapment defense requires showings of government inducement and a lack of predisposition by the accused to commit the crime. Especially in terrorism cases, these can be difficult for a defendant to establish. In the case of the Newburgh Four—involving a plot to blow up a synagogue and a fire Stinger missiles at an airport—the four men showed that a government informant selected the targets and the weapons and promised six-figure compensation for an attack designed and foiled by the government. A jury convicted the men, in a verdict upheld on appeal, because jurors and judges found the plotters were predisposed to commit their crimes, regardless of the government’s inducements.

Read the motion to dismiss, below:

[Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images.]

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on MSNBC, BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks.