IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Men accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan gov. have new creative defense

Defense attorneys claimed a plan to kidnap Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was actually initiated by the government.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer listens during a news conference in Oxford, Michigan on November 30.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer listens during a news conference in Oxford, Michigan on November 30. Authorities say a 15-year-old sophomore opened fire at Oxford High School, killing several students and wounding multiple other people, including a teacher.Paul Sancya / AP Images

In an effort to have their clients’ cases thrown out, defense attorneys for five men accused of plotting to kidnap Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer are claiming the men were entrapped.

It’s the latest sign that conservative spin artists are desperate and eager to portray the movement’s increasingly violent acts as government conspiracies.

Last year, as Whitmer imposed Covid-19 safety measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus, prosecutors say Ty Garbin, Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta all conspired to kidnap the governor as retribution for her policies. Garbin has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with prosecutors. The five others have pleaded not guilty.

Attorneys for the five men said in a Saturday court filing that they were effectively coaxed into a plot. Their clients, they argued, had merely gone along with it out of “a sense of patriotism and right-doing.”

​​“Essentially, the evidence here demonstrates egregious overreaching by the government’s agents, and by the informants those agents handled,” defense attorneys wrote. “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.”

The movement for dismissal comes after an FBI agent assigned to the case, Richard Trask, was arrested on a domestic violence charge and later fired and convicted of a misdemeanor.

Prosecutors deny the men were entrapped. They said some were members of a militia group known as the Wolverine Watchmen, and the men prepared for the kidnapping by surveilling Whitmer’s home, as well as conducting field exercises for practice.

The alleged plot occurred during a time when then-President Donald Trump and conservative media frequently criticized Whitmer for enacting policies meant to thwart Covid-19. Much like conservatives have tried to claim the Jan. 6 pro-Trump attack on the U.S. Capitol was actually an inside job, a similar effort is underway to blame a plot to kidnap Michigan’s governor on … the government.

Just last week, Republican conspiracy theorist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., claimed federal agents “encouraged people to go in” during the Jan. 6 attack. Defense attorneys for the men in Michigan are trying the same tactic and encouraging the conservative movement’s dangerous game plan: commit acts of political violence and deflect blame toward your adversaries with government conspiracy theories.