Whitmer Kidnapping

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was allegedly the target of a militant group conspiring to kidnap her.

LANSING — The federal government has charged six people with conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in an alleged domestic terrorist plot, according to newly unsealed court records.

Seven others face state charges, brought by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. All 13 are in custody, officials said.

Members of a militia group purchased weapons, conducted surveillance, and held training and planning meetings, but were foiled in part because the FBI was able to infiltrate the group with informants, according to charges officials planned to detail Thursday. Plans included kidnapping Whitmer and putting her on trial for treason, officials allege.

“I knew this job would be hard,” Whitmer said hours after learning of the alleged plot to kidnap her. “But I never could have imagined anything like this.”

Whitmer thanked law enforcement and prosecutors for thwarting the plot and pursing criminal charges “to bring these sick and depraved men to justice.”

“As the mom of two teenage daughters and three stepsons, my husband and I are eternally grateful to everyone who put themselves in harm’s way to keep our family safe,” she said.

Whitmer also lashed out at President Donald Trump and accused him of “stoking distrust,” “fomenting anger” and emboldening hate groups who “spread fear and hatred and division.”

“Just last week, the president of the United States … refused to condemn white supremacists, like these two Michigan militia groups,” Whitmer said, referring to Trump’s debate appearance. “‘Stand back and stand by,’ he told them. ... Hate groups heard the president’s word not as a rebuke but as a rallying cry, as a call to action.”

The Democratic governor stressed: “When our leaders speak, their words matter, they carry weight.”

Col. Joseph Gasper, director of the Michigan State Police, which worked with federal agents on the investigation, called the case “unprecedented,” and “one of the largest cases in recent history that the Michigan State Police has been involved in.”

The FBI became aware early in 2020, through social media, that a militia group was “discussing the violent overthrow of certain government and law enforcement components,” and “agreed to take violent action,” according to a sworn affidavit.

Members of the group talked about “murdering … tyrants” or “taking” a sitting governor, according to the affidavit. One of the relevant meetings the FBI monitored was held June 20 in Grand Rapids, the affidavit alleges. Another meeting was held at a home in Luther, Michigan, and in Munith.

Discussions included using 200 men to “storm” the Capitol Building in Lansing, kidnap hostages, including Whitmer, and try the governor for treason, according to the affidavit.

The group met for field exercises and training this year and conducted surveillance of the governor’s vacation home on at least two occasions in late August and September, the affidavit alleges. They also purchased a high-voltage Taser and night goggles for use in the kidnapping plot, according to court records. Members of the plot said they wanted to complete the kidnapping before the Nov. 3 election, according to the affidavit.

“All of us can disagree about politics, but those disagreements should never, ever result in violence,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider in the Eastern District of Michigan. “The allegations in this complaint are deeply disturbing. We owe our thanks to the men and women of law enforcement who uncovered this plot and have worked so hard to protect Gov. Whitmer.”

The suspects

Charged in the U.S. District Court in the western district of Michigan are: Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta, according to a criminal complaint. They are charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping, according to the complaint. All are residents of Michigan except Croft, who is a resident of Delaware, the complaint alleges.

Also facing state charges, brought by Nessel, are: Pete Musico, 42, and Joseph Morrison, 42, who live together in Munith and are each charged with a threat of terrorism, gang membership, providing material support for terrorist acts and possession of a firearm in commission of a felony; Paul Bellar, 21, of Milford, charged with providing material support for terrorist acts, gang membership and possessing a firearm in commission of a felony; and Shawn Fix, 38, of Belleville, Eric Molitor, 36, of Cadillac, Michael Null, 38, of Plainwell, and William Null, 38, of Shelbyville, each charged with charged with providing material support for terrorist attacks and possessing a firearm in commission of felony.

More than a dozen people from several states met in Dublin, Ohio, on June 6 and talked about creating a society that followed the U.S. Bill of Rights, in which they could be self-sufficient. After that meeting, a militia group in Michigan was contacted.

The Michigan militia group involved in the plot was called the Wolverine Watchmen, Nessel said at a Thursday news conference.

The FBI used confidential informants as part of the investigation and has paid one of them more than $14,000 and paid $8,600 to another, according to the affidavit.

The plot

A June 20 meeting was held at Fox’s business in Grand Rapids, in the basement, which was accessed “through a trap door hidden under a rug on the main floor,” according to the affidavit. Fox collected all of the attendees’ cellphones in a box and carried them upstairs to prevent any monitoring, according to the affidavit, but an FBI informant was wearing a hidden recording device. At that meeting, participants discussed plans to attack the Capitol and use “Molotov cocktails” to attack police, according to the affidavit.

On July 18, at a meeting in Ohio that was secretly audio recorded, Garbin suggested shooting up the governor’s vacation home, which he said he would prefer over trying to go to the Capitol in Lansing.

Fox said the best opportunity to abduct Whitmer would be when she was arriving at, or leaving, either her personal vacation home or the governor’s official summer residence on Mackinac Island, according to the affidavit.

Fox described the plans as, “Snatch and grab, man. Grab the f------ governor. Just grab the b----. Because at that point, we do that dude, it’s over.”

Once kidnapped, Whitmer would be moved to a “secure location” in Wisconsin, for “trial,” according to the affidavit.

Fox suggested they get a real estate agent to help them find the exact location of the vacation home and collect information on the surrounding homes and structures, according to the affidavit.

He also discussed the importance of knowing the layout of the yard, homes and security, said they needed to map out the surrounding property and gates, and needed plumbers and electricians to help them read blueprints to refine their strategy, according to the affidavit. Fox suggested recruiting an “engineer or information technology expert,” a “demo guy” and other “operators,” according to the affidavit.

Plans included planting a bomb under a nearby bridge to divert law enforcement, according to the affidavit.

'Threat against us all'

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, has clashed repeatedly with Whitmer over her response to the coronavirus pandemic and her use of emergency powers. But he expressed outrage Thursday at the apparent plot.

“A threat against our governor is a threat against us all,” Shirkey said. “We condemn those who plotted against her and our government. They are not patriots. There is no honor in their actions. They are criminals and traitors, and they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

News of the plot Thursday quickly intensified an ongoing debate over whether open carry of rifles and other weapons should continue to be permitted at the Capitol.

“You know who those potential hostages would have been?” Democratic state Rep. Darrin Camilerri of Brownstown Township said on Twitter. “State legislators. My colleagues. My friends. Me.”

He said there was “a reason we were scared to go to work during those violent gatherings,” and asked whether GOP leaders, who have opposed a gun ban inside the Capitol, will “take the steps needed to keep the Capitol safe.

Protesters took to the capitol in April in response to emergency orders from Whitmer. Some brought long guns, at times standing in the Senate gallery above lawmakers. While some lawmakers called for guns to be banned from the Capitol, the State Capitol Commission refused to issue such a mandate despite months of debate.

Recently, two Democratic senators introduced bills that would largely ban guns from the Legislature.

Fox, Garbin and others discussed their plot during a Second Amendment rally in June at the capitol, according to the affidavit.

The alleged plot against the governor marks the second major militia case brought by federal officials in Michigan in the last decade.

The last one was a major embarrassment for the federal government as it ended with the vindication of all the defendants, some who were jailed for years. The case involved the 2009 arrests of seven Hutaree militia members who were charged with plotting a revolt against the government that included killing police officers with guns and bombs.

All faced up to life in prison, but their trial ended abruptly in 2012 when U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts concluded that the government failed to prove its case. In the end, the judge concluded, there was not proof of a real plot to overthrow the government or kill police, but people engaging in tough talk, she said.

(19) comments

Rottweiler

Only the lowest life form out there would defend ANTIFA.

Lanivan

I'm just pointing out the facts, unlike some who run with prejudices, lies, and no facts to back themselves up.

Rottweiler

You are sick and bitter. You have no facts just your twisted opinion.

Lanivan

Classic projection.

Rottweiler

You are sick Lanivan

Lanivan

Actually, the domestic terrorists out there who have the warped anti-government, anti-law enforcement, pro-white supremacy ideologies are the sick ones. Maybe re-installing the draft or some sort of national public works job program would help give meaning to their lives and feel that they belong. Most of their histories are not stellar - they are easily radicalized by misinformation promoted by foreign adversaries, made to give them a sense of purpose and belonging.

Lanivan

You do know, don't you, Rottweiler - or perhaps, on second thought, you probably don't, that the Antifa movement is opposed to FASCISM. They are anti-fascist. Meaning: Fascism is a form of far-right, authoritarian ultra-nationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition and strong regimentation of society and of the economy - you know, like white supremacy/nationalism. Antifa would not riot and loot during a BLM protest because they support BLM. Certainly you don't support anti-democratic fascism our millions of brave US and Allied soldiers fought and died to defeat in WWII, do you?? On second thought, maybe you do.

Rottweiler

More sick ranting from Lanivan digging her hole deeper again this week . I oppose viience from the right and the left. You ate just insane.

Lanivan

Domestic terrorists, fully armed with military-grade assault weapons, Timothy McVeigh-style wackos. Nice job, Trump and Trump supporters who enable and encourage this kind of hate-filled, irrational rage against government. These white power groups are the #1 national security concern in the US, as of the last 3-4 years. The violence they commit in the US has increased dramatically since 2016. These are the violent rioters and looters, not Antifa, which is not a factor - although the right-wing desperately wants you to think that.

Rottweiler

So the FBI which is overseen by the Trump Sdministration conducted an investigation and arrested these people. As for you comment on ANTIFA and the rioters you are very sick and wrong. What they have done to business and property and personal assaults is unheard of. Trying to lay blame anywhere else is inflammatory and ignorant.

Lanivan

There is no evidence that Antifa has much if anything to do with the rioting and looting taking place after curfew in cities. Conversely, there are reams of reports, online available to the public, that break down the organizations behind these domestic terrorists, and that support my comment. If you want to prove me wrong, provide links to support your claims.

Rottweiler

No one supports these groups, not Trump or the Republicans. Your rhetoric and added defense of ANTIFA is despicable.

Lanivan

Iow, Rottweiler, you can't show links that support the theory the Antifa is behind the domestic terrorism in the US, because there aren't any. And I find it fascinating that every time I condemn white supremacy, ignorance, and hate, folks like you, edwards1, and of course, Vladtheimp, get mad at me! Fascinating!!

Rottweiler

Why provide facts to a fool?

Rottweiler

Outnumbered and made a fool as usual

Vladtheimp

Lanivan Joins the Haters

One of the ringleaders arrested, Brandon Caserta, was active on social media, appeared with the Anarchist flag in the background and trashed the Constitution and the police. He also stated President Trump is a “Tyrant.”

Another ringleader of the group, Pete Musico, says races shouldn’t be fighting each other, we’re all the same, government is the real enemy and he attacks police.

Poor Lanivan, she joins Wretchen and Chicago Groot by blaming President Trump based on false asumptions about White Supremacists when it turns out these fools are just Black Lives Matter and ANTIFA with camo and beards.

When you ASSUME you make a donkey out of you.

Lanivan

From a report from the Department of Homeland Security: "“Lone offenders and small cells of individuals motivated by a diverse array of social, ideological, and personal factors will pose the primary terrorist threat to the United States,” the draft reads. “Among these groups, we assess that white supremacist extremists – who increasingly are networking with likeminded persons abroad – will pose the most persistent and lethal threat.” "“We judge that ideologically-motivated lone offenders and small groups will pose the greatest terrorist threat to the Homeland through 2021, with white supremacist extremists presenting the most lethal threat,” it reads." " “Violent extremists almost certainly will continue their efforts to exploit public fears associated with COVID-19 and social grievances driving lawful protests to incite violence, intimidate targets, and promote their violent extremist ideologies,”. But that's just the DHS, don't take their word for it (just a bunch of haters to you). There are similar reports out there from the State Department, the Department of Justice, and the FBI. And yes! I like people who don't walk around with AR-15's conspiring to kidnap the Governor, kill police officers, and storm the Capitol Building. And I like people who don't waste time supporting these domestic terrorists.

Vladtheimp

Typical. You do understand, of course, that your wrote parroting of Democrat talking points has absolutely nothing to do with your comment attempting to tie these individuals to President Trump and Conservatives when the alleged conspirators are joined at the hip with Biden/Harris who support their fellow comrades in Black Lives Matter and ANTIFA.

In all honesty, I thought your graduation from an Historically Black College and success as a Capitalist who takes full advantage of the Republican Tax Cuts would have permitted you to understand facts and nuance.

I clearly misunderstood that socialism trumps education and experience in Lannyworld - generalizations trump facts.

Enjoy the fall colors. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GslihKh7-hc

Lanivan

In reply to Vladtheimp (since the powers that be have limited our opportunities to "reply" directly to each other!): I'll give you this - you are the first person ever to refer to reports from the DHS, the State Dept, DOJ, and the FBI as "Democrat talking points". Hahaha. As I wrote above to Rottweiler - Bless his pea-pickin' heart - these extremists have been radicalized through many factors, including foreign misinformation and foreign terrorist adversaries, as well as being encouraged by Trump (instances too numerous to mention here) and his enablers. They opportunistically understand and manipulate the dynamics of radicalizing people who are outliers, don't belong, feel rage toward the system. This is all outside of my personal experience - in all my years of travel, education, and business, I never had experience with violent extremist outliers who wanted to kidnap and kill government officials. And we've paid plenty of taxes over the years, and glad to do it - I believe it's a sign of prosperity to be able to perform your civic duty and pay up to show appreciation for living in a great country like ours, unlike the freeloader Trump who never missed an opportunity to evade paying taxes if he could get away with it. Enjoyed the lovely fall reciprocated colors, as per your request.

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