Suspects in plot against MI governor also discussed kidnapping VA Gov. Northam

By KARMA ALLEN and LUKE BARR, ABC News

(NEW YORK) —
The men accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer allegedly discussed taking similar action against Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam over his COVID-19 restrictions.

The men — Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta — appeared in court on Tuesday as prosecutors outlined why they should be locked up pending trial. They were charged with federal conspiracy to commit kidnapping for their alleged plan to take Whitmer and others hostage at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan, last week.

A spokesperson for Gov. Northam said the FBI had previously notified his security team about the plot.

“The FBI alerted key members of the Governor’s security team throughout the course of their investigation. Per security protocols for highly-classified information, neither the Governor nor other members of his staff were informed,” the spokesperson said. “At no time was the Governor or his family in imminent danger. Enhanced security measures have been in place for Governor Northam and his family for quite some time, and they will remain.”

The suspects are allegedly part of a larger group of self-proclaimed militia members from around the country who met online earlier this year to discuss plots against elected officials, authorities said. The plan to go after Northam allegedly came up during a summer meeting in Dublin, Ohio.

During questioning by federal prosecutors, FBI Special Agent Richard Trask detailed specifically how serious the men were about carrying out the alleged plot. Prosecutors also played videos and showed photos of the men during what the FBI described as training for a possible event.

Trask detailed the suspects’ plot to allegedly watch Gov. Whitmer’s home, which included timing the response from law enforcement to her house and blowing up a bridge that connected law enforcement to her residence.

Prosecutors also went into specific detail about the code names that were allegedly used by the six men, and how they enlisted the help of the Wolverine Watchmen — another group that was brought up on state charges — to allegedly carry out the planned attack.

The Wolverine Watchmen wanted to conduct their alleged plot out in the open by storming the Michigan state Capitol, but the six men who were arrested by federal authorities had plotted to take the governor from her home, according to the FBI agent.

The defendants conducted multiple training sessions in preparation for a potential attack and trained with guns, some equipped with illegal suppressors and IED’s, prosecutors said.

The men also allegedly discussed a scenario where Whitmer would be taken to a nearby boat, shutting off the engine and leaving her in the middle of Lake Michigan.

In what prosecutors surmised was a nod to the suspect who killed the son of federal Judge Ester Salas, one of the suspects suggested that somebody dress up as a pizza delivery man, and shoot her.

“Just mug the pizza guy and take his shirt,” Harris, one of the suspects, allegedly wrote in one message. “Just take a pistol and like 3 rounds. … Have someone go to her house and cap her.”

The federal government also showed a SnapChat video of a gun locker in Garbin’s house — and a cache of weapons.

The men also used code names for various situations, such as mailing an IED: “baking a cake and sending it.”

“She needs to go ASAP,” one of the group members wrote about Whitmer in their encrypted chat.

Two defendants — including Fox, who was identified as the ringleader of the militia group by Trask — have asked to waive their preliminary hearings until Friday.

In a lengthy cross examination, each of the men’s attorneys attempted to poke holes in the government’s case and sought to downplay the role their respective clients played in the militia group, but prosecutors rebuffed this notion by claiming that anyone who participated in the chats previously was involved in the crime.

Each attorney also attempted to chip away at the credibility of the two confidential informants that the FBI used to infiltrate the group, and questioned the agent’s training in explosives and his interpretation of the meaning of the text messages used as evidence against the defendants. Lawyers for the defendants also claimed that some of the confidential informants were leading some of the trainings and leading some of the discussions about this plot – a claim Trask outright denied.

ABC News’ Alex Mallin and Whitney Lloyd contributed to this report.

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