5 charged in Mich. gov. kid­nap scheme

New York Daily News - - NEWS - BY NEL­SON OLIVEIRA

A fed­eral judge on Fri­day or­dered five men to stand trial for their al­leged in­volve­ment in a far-right ex­trem­ist plot to over­throw Michi­gan’s state gov­ern­ment and kid­nap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The de­ci­sion fol­lows two days of tes­ti­mony by an FBI agent and pros­e­cu­tors be­hind the months-long in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which has led to charges against 14 peo­ple in Michi­gan and other states.

Au­thor­i­ties said the group planned to snatch the Demo­cratic gov­er­nor out of her va­ca­tion home and “try” her for trea­son, a plan that has been de­scribed as a vi­o­lent re­sponse to Whitmer’s strict lock­down or­ders dur­ing the early months of the coron­avirus pan­demic.

The case now goes to a grand jury for a pos­si­ble in­dict­ment, an­other re­quire­ment be­fore a trial can be sched­uled.

U.S. Mag­is­trate Judge Sally Berens also ruled Fri­day that two of the sus­pects, Adam Fox and Ty Garbin, should re­main in jail. She pre­vi­ously de­nied bond for three other men charged in the case.

At­tor­neys for the five de­fen­dants tried to con­vince Berens that their clients were “big talk­ers” who did not in­tend to take ac­tion against the gov­er­nor.

“It’s loose talk,” Scott Gra­ham, an at­tor­ney for de­fen­dant Kaleb Franks, told the Grand Rapids court.

The judge didn’t buy it, not­ing that the fact that the plot was “likely to be un­suc­cess­ful or dif­fi­cult to ac­com­plish” was not rel­e­vant to de­cide whether there was prob­a­ble cause to ar­rest them.

As­sis­tant U.S. At­tor­ney Nils Kessler, who also chal­lenged Gra­ham’s ar­gu­ment, said sev­eral of those men par­tic­i­pated in sur­veil­lance out­side Whitmer’s home and had mul­ti­ple firearm ex­er­cises in the past few months.

“You’re cross­ing a pretty se­ri­ous line when you go in the mid­dle of the night in mul­ti­ple cars and stage up at a gas sta­tion and... you go to the house of the sit­ting gov­er­nor of the state to go surveil their house at night,” Kessler said.

In ad­di­tion to the five men who ap­peared in fed­eral court this week, a sixth sus­pect who lives in Delaware is ex­pected to be trans­ferred to Michi­gan in the com­ing days. Eight other men are fac­ing state ter­ror­ism charges as part of the same scheme.

One of the plans the group al­legedly con­sid­ered in­volved hurl­ing Molo­tov cock­tails at the po­lice and storm­ing the Capi­tol build­ing in Lans­ing, where they would kid­nap Whitmer and other of­fi­cials, ac­cord­ing to an FBI af­fi­davit. They also dis­cussed ab­duct­ing an­other Demo­cratic gov­er­nor, Vir­ginia’s Ralph Northam, pros­e­cu­tors said.

Sev­eral sus­pects are linked to an ob­scure para­mil­i­tary group known as Wolver­ine Watch­men

Michi­gan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was al­legedly tar­geted by ex­trem­ists.

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