Group charged in Michigan governor kidnap plot discussed targeting Virginia governor, FBI agent says

The group charged with plotting to ki...

Posted: Oct 13, 2020 3:40 PM
Updated: Oct 13, 2020 3:44 PM

The group charged with plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also discussed kidnapping Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, an FBI agent testified in court on Tuesday.

FBI agent Richard Trask testified during a preliminary hearing that the group discussed taking out sitting governors due to their "coronavirus-related lockdown orders."

"They discussed possible targets, taking a sitting governor, specifically governors of Michigan and Virginia, over shut down orders," Trask said.

"The understanding at the time was to potentially kidnap a sitting governor and remove them from office," he added.

The FBI obtained this information during a June 6 meeting in Dublin, Ohio. A person who attended the meeting came forward to authorities "based on concerns (over) some of the directions that the group was headed and potential violence."

The court hearing came days after 13 people were charged in an alleged domestic terror plot to kidnap Whitmer. The alleged scheme included plans to overthrow several state governments that the suspects "believe are violating the US Constitution," according to a federal criminal complaint.

Six people were charged federally with conspiracy to kidnap, and seven other people, associated with the paramilitary group "Wolverine Watchmen," were charged by the state, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced.

Whitmer and Northam, both Democrats, were among the governors who issued coronavirus-related executive orders in the spring that closed gathering places like gyms, bars and restaurants.

Northam declined to comment on Tuesday afternoon, citing the ongoing criminal investigation, but he did thank the security and police for their work.

His office issued a statement saying that the FBI alerted key members of the governor's security team throughout the investigation.

"Per security protocols for highly-classified information, neither the Governor nor other members of his staff were informed. 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," press secretary Alena Yarmosky said.

Yarmosky also connected the incident to what she said was President Donald Trump's encouragement of violence, particularly in April 17 tweets to "LIBERATE MICHIGAN" and "LIBERATE VIRGINIA." Trump's Virginia tweet came after Northam signed a series of gun control measures requiring background checks and establishing a "red flag" law.

"Here's the reality: President Trump called upon his supporters to 'LIBERATE VIRGINIA' in April — just like Michigan. In fact, the President regularly encourages violence against those who disagree with him. The rhetoric coming out of this White House has serious and potentially deadly consequences. It must stop," Yarmosky said.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended Trump in a statement to CNN affiliate WTVR.

"President Trump has continually condemned white supremacists and all forms of hate. Governor Whitmer, and now Governor Northam, are sowing division by making these outlandish allegations," she said. "America stands united against hate and in support of our federal law enforcement who stopped this plot."

How the plot came to be

Trask's testimony on Tuesday provided further details on the alleged plot first hatched in a social media group and then developed in the basement of a vacuum repair shop.

At meetings in Dublin, Ohio, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and a rural yard in Munith, Michigan, the group allegedly plotted to take violent action against the state, conducted tactical training, and tried unsuccessfully to make bombs, according to court documents.

The six charged by the federal government are Michigan residents Adam Fox, 37, Ty Garbin, 24, Kaleb Franks, 26, Daniel Harris, 23, Brandon Caserta, 32, and Delaware resident Barry Croft, 44.

The seven people charged by the state are Paul Bellar, 21, Shawn Fix, 38, Eric Molitor, 36, Michael Null, 38, William Null, 38, Pete Musico, 42, Joseph Morrison, 26. They face a variety of firearm and terror charges.

Fox allegedly wanted to carry out the kidnapping plot on Election Day and discussed firebombing police vehicles to prevent law enforcement from responding, Trask said Tuesday.

The FBI became aware of the scheme, first reported by The Detroit News, in early 2020 through a social media group, according to the federal criminal complaint.

Court documents say the FBI planted a confidential informant to travel to Dublin, Ohio, on June 6 for a meeting with Croft, Fox and about 13 others.

"They discussed different ways of achieving this goal from peaceful endeavors to violent actions ... Several members talked about murdering 'tyrants' or 'taking' a sitting governor," according to the complaint.

By June 14, a second confidential informant confirmed that Fox was introduced to the leader of the group and they met in Grand Rapids. The informant audio-recorded conversations with Fox in which he allegedly said he needed "200 men" to storm the Capitol building in Lansing and take hostages, including Whitmer, according to the criminal complaint.

Fox allegedly explained they would try the governor of Michigan for "treason" and he said they would execute the plan before the November 2020 election.

On June 20, Fox, Garbin and others met at Fox's business in Grand Rapids where attendees met in the basement accessed by a trap door hidden under a rug on the main floor, according to the criminal complaint.

"The attendees discussed plans for assaulting the Michigan State Capitol, countering law enforcement first responders, and using 'Molotov cocktails' to destroy police vehicles. The attendees also discussed plans for an additional meeting during the first weekend of July when they also would conduct firearms and tactical training," according to the criminal complaint.

The conspirators conducted surveillance of Whitmer's vacation home on two occasions in late August and September, the complaint said. Croft and Fox discussed detonating explosive devices to divert police from the vacation home area, according to the FBI.

The group also met at a rural property in Munith for what officials called tactical training. Trask said Tuesday this included firearms training, medical training and an attempt to detonate an improvised explosive device.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 307332

Reported Deaths: 7095
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto20757248
Hinds19869408
Harrison17475302
Rankin13307275
Jackson13095243
Madison9886210
Lee9854169
Jones8289160
Forrest7522146
Lauderdale7185237
Lowndes6261144
Lamar610284
Lafayette6026117
Washington5279132
Bolivar4769129
Oktibbeha455297
Panola4440103
Pearl River4418139
Warren4277118
Marshall4267100
Pontotoc416472
Monroe4056132
Union403575
Neshoba3984176
Lincoln3869107
Hancock371985
Leflore3468124
Sunflower329389
Tate322681
Pike3177104
Scott310472
Yazoo304268
Alcorn297664
Itawamba296776
Copiah292965
Coahoma289677
Simpson287484
Tippah284668
Prentiss275659
Marion265679
Wayne261341
Leake260973
Grenada254882
Covington254380
Adams245882
Newton244859
George237647
Winston225981
Tishomingo222067
Jasper219748
Attala213273
Chickasaw204857
Holmes186471
Clay182354
Stone179131
Clarke176676
Tallahatchie175240
Calhoun163130
Yalobusha158636
Smith158534
Walthall130543
Greene129433
Lawrence126223
Noxubee125833
Montgomery125542
Perry125138
Carroll120826
Amite119941
Webster113432
Jefferson Davis105332
Tunica102525
Claiborne101330
Benton97225
Kemper95126
Humphreys94332
Franklin81723
Quitman78916
Choctaw72817
Jefferson64828
Wilkinson64727
Sharkey49617
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 518588

Reported Deaths: 10712
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson753351487
Mobile37698798
Madison33829494
Tuscaloosa25245443
Montgomery23942565
Shelby23094238
Baldwin20617300
Lee15510165
Calhoun14277311
Morgan14137268
Etowah13660345
Marshall11952219
Houston10379278
Elmore9988200
Limestone9806147
Cullman9467188
St. Clair9422234
Lauderdale9208227
DeKalb8745181
Talladega8042171
Walker7087275
Jackson6753110
Autauga6715103
Blount6480135
Colbert6200130
Coffee5397112
Dale4766110
Russell428238
Franklin419882
Chilton4080109
Covington4053114
Tallapoosa3892146
Escambia387574
Dallas3526149
Chambers3499122
Clarke346360
Marion3065100
Pike305475
Lawrence295295
Winston272272
Bibb256258
Marengo248561
Geneva245875
Pickens232959
Barbour224755
Hale218675
Butler212266
Fayette208960
Henry187844
Cherokee182044
Randolph176741
Monroe171240
Washington163838
Macon154348
Clay149354
Crenshaw149257
Cleburne146041
Lamar139234
Lowndes136453
Wilcox124327
Bullock121340
Conecuh109028
Perry107926
Sumter102932
Coosa99228
Greene90734
Choctaw58624
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
51° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 51°
Columbus
Clear
51° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 51°
Oxford
Clear
43° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 43°
Starkville
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 46°
High pressure brings sunny skies and dry conditions for Sunday with highs in the mid 70s. Rain chances build in during the week.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather