TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) – A federal grand jury has charged six men with conspiring to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in what investigators say was a plot by anti-government extremists angry about her coronavirus policies.
The indictment released Thursday by US attorney Andrew Birge brought charges against Adam Dean Fox, Barry Gordon Croft Jr., Ty Gerard Garbin, Kaleb James Franks, Daniel Joseph Harris and Brandon Michael-Ray Caserta. They are all from Michigan, except for Croft, who lives in Delaware.
The charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, Birge said in a statement.
The six were arrested in early October following an FBI investigation into an alleged plot to kidnap the Democratic governor at her vacation home in northern Michigan.
Defense attorneys have said their clients were “big talkers” who had no intention of carrying out the alleged plan.
The indictment reiterates the allegations made at a hearing in October, where Officer Richard Trask testified that the men were involved in paramilitary groups.
Fox and Croft attended a June meeting in Dublin, Ohio, where the possible kidnapping of governors and other actions were discussed, the charges said. During the hearing, Trask said that Virginia Democratic Governor Ralph Northam was one of the potential targets.
It says Fox later met Garbin, a leader of a Michigan group called the “Wolverine Watchmen,” at a meeting outside the Michigan Capitol in Lansing. At a meeting in Grand Rapids, the two men and other members of the Watchmen agreed to work together “on their common goals,” the document says.
It describes “field training drills” and other preparations, including the surveillance of Whitmer’s vacation home and the exchange of encrypted messages.
During a training event, they “practiced attacking a building in teams and discussed tactics to combat the governor’s security with improvised explosives, a projectile launcher and other weapons,” the indictment said.
They also discussed destroying a highway bridge near Whitmer’s home to prevent police from responding, it states.
The indictment says that Caserta wrote in an electronic message that if the men encountered police on a reconnaissance mission, “they should give the officers one chance to leave and kill them if they disobeyed.”
They were arrested after four members scheduled an Oct. 7 meeting in Ypsilanti, west of Detroit, to meet with an undercover FBI agent and purchase explosives and other supplies, the charges said.
Eight other men reportedly members or employees of the Wolverine Watchmen are being charged by the state court with providing material support for terrorist acts. Some of them are accused of participating in the alleged plot against Whitmer.
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