Suspects in Whitmer kidnapping plot say FBI invented the crime, want charges dismissed

Lawyers for five men arrested in connection with an alleged plot to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan are asking a court to toss out the indictment, claiming “egregious overreaching” by federal authorities who they accuse of inventing a conspiracy to entrap the suspects.

The five men — Adam Fox, 38, Barry Croft, 46, Kaleb Franks, 27, Daniel Harris, 24, and Brandon Caserta, 33 — face up to life in prison if they are convicted, but their defense attorneys are alleging that there would have been no plot were it not set up by the FBI.

“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,” their attorneys noted in a court filing.

According to the Detroit News, the 20-page dismissal was filed in court on Christmas night, with attorneys claiming that the FBI and federal authorities took advantage of disdain for Whitmer’s strict lockdown policies regarding the COVID-19 pandemic to create the plot.

The dismissal was filed with U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker, a George W. Bush appointee. The attorneys argued that if he grants their request, then the government’s case would fall apart along with all remaining charges, which are linked to the original conspiracy allegation.

The request comes after several other issues have arisen in relation to the federal government’s handling of the case. For instance, one of the FBI’s lead agents, Robert Trask, was arrested some months ago on a domestic violence charge and subsequently fired and convicted on a misdemeanor. Also, the FBI utilized an informant named Stephen Robeson though he has a lengthy criminal history; one case involved a guilty plea in a firearm-related crime but he was released on a deal with prosecutors.

“Essentially, the evidence here demonstrates egregious overreaching by the government’s agents, and by the informants those agents handled,” says the dismissal filing, which comes ahead of the March 8 trial date.

“The government initiated this case, despite the fact that it knew there was no plan to kidnap, no operational plan, and no details about how a kidnapping would occur or what would happen afterward,” the lawyers argued.

The defense attorneys noted further that “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 defense also argued that informants completely drove the case, which led the men to feel a “sense of patriotism and right-doing.”

“These defendants had no desire whatsoever to kidnap anyone,” the lawyers argued.

A sixth defendant, Ty Garbin, 25, pleaded guilty to the original federal allegation — conspiracy to kidnap the Democratic governor — and he is currently serving a six-year sentence in federal prison.

Jon Dougherty

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