Federal judge won't dismiss Whitmer kidnapping case

U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker said defendants who claim government entrapment "have a heavy burden to carry."
Image
Michigan's Governor Gretchen Whitmer
Michigan's Governor Gretchen Whitmer
(Bill Pugliano / Getty Images)

A federal judge refused to dismiss charges against five men accused of plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker said defendants who claim government entrapment "have a heavy burden to carry."

The accused men must show that the government lured them into the plot and have a "patently clear absence of predisposition as a matter of law," Jonker wrote. "Defendants fail to carry their burden because the evidence on both issues is decidedly disputed as it almost inevitably is at this stage of the case."

On Christmas Day, defense attorneys asked Jonker to dismiss all charges. The attorneys argue that the FBI fueled the alleged plot via confidential informants to recruit members and organize "anti-government" meetings where one informant bought "pizza, moonshine, and paid for attendees' hotel rooms."

At least 12 FBI confidential informants infiltrated the Whitmer plot and recorded more than 1,000 hours of conversation, and one informant even led military training.

The FBI knew at least one informant, former confidential human source (CHS) Stephen Robeson, was using money raised under the pretext of combatting child sex trafficking to fund weapons. Although aware of Robeson's fraudulent activities in late 2020, the FBI didn't charge him until a year later, in Dec. 2021.

Defense attorneys argued that the "illegal and unethical" use of confidential informants complicates the case, as do the three lead FBI agents who now won't be testifying in the case.

The five men are scheduled to stand trial on March 8 in Grand Rapids to face conspiracy charges to kidnap and use weapons of mass destruction. The charges carry a maximum sentence of life in federal prison.