October 31, 2020

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Five suspects in Michigan governor kidnap plot held without bail, await jury trial

Oct 16, 2020 | ,

 

By Gabriella Borter

(Reuters) – Five men suspected of plotting to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer were being held without bail on Friday and were ordered to face a grand jury trial on federal charges that could land them in prison for life if convicted.

Adam Fox, an alleged leader in the plot that resulted in 14 arrests in the last two weeks, waived his right to a bail hearing on Friday while U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally Berens denied bail to defendant Ty Garbin on the grounds that he posed a risk to the community.

Fox and Garbin are among six people who face federal charges for conspiring to kidnap Whitmer, a Democrat assailed by Republican President Donald Trump and right-wing extremists for her the regional lockdowns put in place to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Eight other suspects in the plot, all of them described by prosecutors as members or associates of an anti-government militia group called the Wolverine Watchmen, face state charges in Michigan for their alleged participation in the scheme.

Mark Satawa, an attorney for Garbin, argued that his client should be permitted to be released and put under house arrest at his parents’ home, saying there was not yet sufficient evidence that Garbin posed a threat and that he had an “admirable personal record” with no criminal history.

In response, Judge Berens said there was nothing to prevent Garbin “from leaving and continuing the conspiracy.”

Berens presided over a second day of hearings for five suspects at the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan on Friday. She ruled that there was probable cause to support the charges and that the five men would face a trial by grand jury.

On Tuesday, Berens ordered three of the defendants – Brandon Caserta, Daniel Harris and Kaleb Franks – to be held without bail, citing the risk they posed to the community.

The sixth co-defendant, Barry Croft, is awaiting a hearing and is being transferred to Michigan from Delaware after his arrest on Oct. 8, according to court documents.

On Tuesday, FBI Special Agent Richard Trask testified that some of the suspects had also discussed whether they should shoot Governor Whitmer in the head and contemplated abducting Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat who also enacted coronavirus restrictions they opposed.

Trask described a planning meeting that included at least two of the co-defendants in Dublin, Ohio, in June, basing his testimony on evidence from confidential informants and encrypted communications from the group.

“At this meeting they discussed possible targets, taking a sitting governor, specifically issues with the governor of Michigan and Virginia based on the lockdown orders,” Trask said.

The FBI gleaned from the group’s messages that another of the suspects had at one point suggested going to Whitmer’s house to “cap her,” possibly disguised as a pizza delivery man, Trask said.

 

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Chris Reese and Aurora Ellis)

 

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