This week, federal prosecutors revealed new and shocking information about the case they constructed against six men charged with conspiring to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
Three bond hearings were held this week and bond was denied to all three men – Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, and Brandon Caserta. More bond hearings may be held in federal court in Grand Rapids later this week.
Five of the men sat in court yesterday with chains around their wrists and waists. The sixth defendant is in Delaware when he was arrested last week by federal agents. He agreed to be extradited to Michigan yesterday. All six are charged with conspiracy to kidnap and have been in federal custody since October 7.
Seven more defendants face state charges in the case, including gang membership, supporting terrorism, and possessing a gun in the commission of a felony.
Shocking Details Revealed in Court This Week
Among the details that came from testimony this week in federal court:
- Adam Fox, 37, is one of the plot’s accused ringleaders who lived in the basement of a vacuum shop in Grand Rapids. He told FBI agents that he wanted to take Whitmer into the middle of Lake Michigan in a small boat and abandon her there.
- In early plot discussions, before the conspirators focused on Whitmer, they talked about kidnapping Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. Like Whitmer, they considered Northam because of the lockdowns he ordered to fight COVID-19.
- Fox and some of the other men took videos and photos outside Whitmer’s cottage in northern Michigan as part of the planning for a plot to take her from there before the Nov. 3 election. Federal prosecutors showed the photos in court of Fox taking the pictures outside her cottage. A confidential informant took the images of Fox.
- By the time the men did a second surveillance outside her cottage, the group was infiltrated by two undercover FBI agents and two confidential informants.
- During another discussion, they discussed sending a phony delivery man to her door to shoot her. Defendant Harris is a 23-year-old former Marine, and he said they could just mug the delivery man and steal his shirt. He noted they would only need a pistol with three rounds to shoot her. The comments reminded investigators of an attack on a federal judge last year that killed his son and wounded her spouse but left the judge unharmed. The shooter was disguised as a UPS delivery man.
- The defendants engaged in training exercises for the scheme, including using gun silencers, exercises in breaking down a door, removing a hostage by force, and quickly reloading guns.
Preliminary examinations were started for all five defendants from Michigan yesterday. Detention hearings were performed for three of the men.
Defendants Still Deemed Potential Threat to the Community
A US magistrate judge said that two of the men – Fox and Ty Garbin, 24, asked for more time to get ready for their preliminary examinations and detention hearings.
The men denied bond yesterday were 26-year-old Franks of Wexford, Harris of Lake Orion, and 32-year-old Caserta of Canton.
Attorneys for the three defendants asked that they be released on home monitoring. The judge denied bond, stating that while she did think they would fleet, she was concerned they are still a threat to the community.
The judge stated that the men were focused on overthrowing the government with force, and if the men were released, they could continue the plot.
In Harris’ case, the judge said an FBI affidavit reported that he suggested killing the Michigan governor by having someone go to her house and shoot her.
Harris also allegedly planned to kill a Maine police officer according to a phone text.
Caserta was the only one who did not participate in the surveillance exercises at Whitmer’s cottage. However, the threats he made against several police officers were the reason he was denied bond.
Caserta was upset at a police officer for stopping him on September 18 when he got a ticket for not having a license or insurance.
He told the other defendants that he knew the officers’ names who stopped him and when they worked using encrypted messaging. He wanted to do reconnaissance on them and eventually kill them.
Later, Caserta recorded a video and shared it with the men. In it, he said he wanted to kill as many police officers as he could and referred to them in vulgar language. He also said he was tired of being enslaved and robbed by the state.
The judge said the video chilled her and made it impossible for a probation officer to supervise Caserta when he is so threatening toward law enforcement officers.
- New and Shocking Details Revealed At Hearing for Governor Whitmer Kidnap Plot. Accessed at https://www.freep.com/news/