Defense in Michigan Gov. Whitmer Kidnapping Case Asks to Dismiss Indictment - Report
© AP Photo / Paul SancyaGov. Gretchen Whitmer listens during a news conference in Oxford, Mich., Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021.
© AP Photo / Paul Sancya
Men accused of conspiracy to kidnap a state governor, mostly local and allegedly affiliated with right-wing organizations, allege the FBI put them up to it due to their political beliefs.
Defense lawyers wrote in a coordinated attempt to scuttle the high-profile case three months before trial that the indictment against five men accused of attempting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer should be thrown out owing to "egregious overreaching" by federal investigators and informants, The Detroit News reported on Sunday.
According to the report, citing the filing, FBI agents and federal prosecutors took advantage of public outrage over Whitmer's handling of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, deliberately orchestrated a plot, and entrapped five people who could face life in prison if convicted of kidnapping conspiracy.
All five defense lawyers reportedly asked US District Judge Robert Jonker to dismiss the conspiracy accusation. The lawyers claimed that the move would virtually destroy the government's case and remaining counts, which are linked and reliant on the conspiracy charge.
The outlet noted that such a request comes after a series of allegations and developments involving the prosecution. For instance, according to reports, FBI Special Agent Richard Trask, one of the leading faces of the investigation, was arrested on a domestic violence charge and later fired and convicted of a misdemeanor.
Trask was fired while awaiting trial on a charge of assault with intent to do great bodily harm amid allegations that he smashed his wife's head against a nightstand and choked her after a dispute stemming from their attendance at a swingers' party in July, according to a Detroit News report from September. The agent was also working as a personal trainer, and it was reportedly unclear whether his FBI supervisors were aware of this or had given their approval.
Moreover, FBI informant Stephen Robeson was reportedly dropped by the agency after being caught illegally possessing a sniper rifle.
"Essentially, the evidence here demonstrates egregious overreaching by the government’s agents, and by the informants those agents handled," the defense's filing reads, per the report. "When the government was faced with evidence showing that the defendants had no interest in a kidnapping plot, it refused to accept failure and continued to push its plan."
But according to the prosecution, the charged men were not entrapped.
“Months before any of them began suggesting it in pretrial motions, Garbin testified that (Barry) Croft and (Adam) Fox were the ringleaders of the plot, and that he and the other conspirators joined it willfully," Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler wrote at the time.
Earlier, the defense reportedly said that there was no kidnapping plot at all. According to the lawyers, government agents decided to continue with the kidnapping, "despite the fact that [they] knew there was no plan to kidnap, no operational plan, and no details about how a kidnapping would occur or what would happen afterward."
According to the defense team, informants were the driving force behind the case, developing a "sense of patriotism and right-doing" before FBI agents arrested the men in October 2020, per the report.
"...informants, of course, not only contacted the defendants face to face but also coaxed, persuaded, cajoled, played on sympathies, cultivated friendships, took advantage of the defendants’ financial conditions, and suggested that the offense they proposed 'would further a greater good,'" the lawyers reportedly stated. "These defendants had no desire whatsoever to kidnap anyone."
The federal court trial is reportedly scheduled for March 8.
Adam Fox, 38, Barry Croft, 46, Kaleb Franks, 27, Daniel Harris, 24, and Brandon Caserta, 33, are the five people charged with kidnapping conspiracy in the case. Ty Garbin, 26, the sixth individual charged, earlier pled guilty and was sentenced to six years in federal prison.