Whitmer kidnapping plot suspects seek dismissal of charges, say FBI invented conspiracy
"When the government was faced with evidence showing that the defendants had no interest in a kidnapping plot, it refused to accept failure," defense attorneys wrote.
Defense attorneys for five men accused of plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.) are seeking a dismissal of the indictment, citing "egregious overreaching" by federal officials, who they say invented a conspiracy and entrapped the men.
If convicted in the alleged extremist kidnapping conspiracy, 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.
"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 mens' attorneys wrote.
The Detroit News reports that the 20-page motion for dismissal was filed Christmas night. Defense attorneys claim that Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents and federal prosecutors took advantage of frustration with Whitmer's stringent COVID-19 restrictions and created the conspiracy.
If U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker, a George W. Bush appointee, dismisses the kidnapping conspiracy charge as requested, the defense argues that it would dismantle the government's case and all remaining charges, which are related to the original charge.
The defense's request follows a series of issues related to the government's handling of the case. One of the lead FBI agents, Richard Trask, was arrested on a domestic violence charge, fired, and convicted of a misdemeanor. The FBI used Stephen Robeson as an informant despite having a lengthy criminal rap sheet. Robeson pleaded guilty to a firearm-related crime but was released under a plea deal.
"Essentially, the evidence here demonstrates egregious overreaching by the government’s agents, and by the informants those agents handled," the defense stated in the motion, filed more than three months before the trial's March 8 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 stated.
The defense attorneys wrote 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 stated informants drove the case, making the men feel a "sense of patriotism and right-doing."
"These defendants had no desire whatsoever to kidnap anyone," the lawyers added.
A sixth man, Ty Garbin, 25, pleaded guilty in January to the original federal indictment which charged him with conspiracy to kidnap Whitmer. He is currently serving six years in federal prison.