Federal prosecutors in Michigan on Thursday announced that a federal grand jury indicted six men on the charge of conspiracy to kidnap. The defendants are accused of plotting to kidnap Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer from her vacation home in early October.
According to the indictment, Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, and Brandon Caserta formed a militia group in the summer of 2020 and began plotting how to overthrow state governments they believed were violating the U.S. Constitution.
Attorneys for the defendants said their clients were merely “big talkers” who did not actually intend to follow through on their kidnapping plot.
Prosecutors said that Fox and Croft first met to discuss “anti-government actions, including the kidnapping of state governors, and recruiting like-minded individuals to their cause” in early June. Fox later met Garbin, one of the leaders of the Michigan-based militia group known as the Wolverine Watchmen, at a rally in Lansing where they recruited others into the group.
The indictment also detailed several overt acts allegedly taken by the men in furtherance of their overall goals.
For example, Fox allegedly “conducted a daytime surveillance of the Governor’s vacation home, and drew a map on which he noted approximate distances from the home to police first responders.” Garbin allegedly sent the group an encrypted text suggesting that “taking down a highway bridge near the Governor’s vacation home would hinder a law enforcement response,” and said he could “paint his boat black for a future nighttime surveillance trip.”
The group is also accused of participating in “field training exercises” on Garbin’s property in Michigan where they 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.”
During one such exercise in September, Croft allegedly “detonated an improvised explosive device containing shrapnel, near human silhouette targets hung by the conspirators to assess its effectiveness.” Later that same day, Fox allegedly ordered $4,000 worth of explosives from an undercover agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Fox, Garbin, Franks, and Harris in October drove to Ypsilanti, Michigan in October to meet the undercover agent posing as a co-conspirator, using “group cash” to make a “good-faith” payment towards securing the explosives and other supplies,” prosecutors say.
Whitmer was thrust into the national spotlight earlier this year when she was repeatedly targeted on Twitter by President Donald Trump for her stay-at-home orders. Protests and demonstrations continue to this day.
In March, Trump referred to Whitmer as “Failing Michigan Governor,” and in April he tweeted in all caps: “LIBERATE MICHIGAN.” He’s also referred to the governor as “Gretchen ‘Half’ Whitmer,” and on other occasions he simply called her “the woman in Michigan.”
Read the indictment below:
[image via Kent County Sherrif’s Department]
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