Explainer: Here are the charges & the men charged in alleged plot to kidnap Whitmer

Michigan Governor Kidnapping Plot Charges Explainer
Posted at 6:44 AM, Mar 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-08 06:44:23-05

(WXYZ/AP) — The trial for four men accused in a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer begins in federal court in Grand Rapids on Tuesday. Below you'll find a breakdown of the case, from the Associated Press

Who are the people charged?

There were originally six people charged in the case, but two pleaded guilty before the trial started. Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks are expected to be star government witnesses.
are expected to testify for the government in the trial.

The four men charged are: Adam Fox, Barry Croft Jr., Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta.

Fox is the alleged ringleader for the plot, according to prosecutors. He and Croft were allegedly part of a far-right movement called "Three Percenter," while Harris and Caserta were alleged members of the Wolverine Watchmen militia.

Garbin pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six years in prison. Franks pleaded guilty last month.

What are they charged with?

All four men are charged with conspiracy to kidnap for allegedly planning to kidnap Whitmer at her vacation home. The men were allegedly angry over COVID-19 restrictions and allegedly planned it from June to October 2020.

Fox, Croft and Harris are also charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, as prosecutors allege they tried to build explosives, including one to destroy a bridge near Whitmer's vacation home during the kidnapping.

Croft and Harris are also charged with possession of an unregistered firearm, and Harris is charged with possession of a semiautomatic rifle with a barrel less than 16 inches that wasn't registered.

What are the potential sentences?

All four could spend life in prison if they are convicted, as the conspiracy to kidnap and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction each have a maximum sentence of life in prison.

What's required to secure convictions?

The defendants never achieved their purported goal of kidnapping Whitmer. Unbeknownst to them, the FBI had infiltrated their group and was closely monitoring them. They were arrested in October 2020.

The trial’s focus will be on whether the plot was more than idle talk of wannabe weekend warriors. To prove it was deadly serious, prosecutors will seek to show how defendants took specific steps, referred to as “overt acts" in the indictment, toward implementing their plans.

Jury instructions proposed by prosecutors prior to trial explain that convictions on the kidnapping and weapons conspiracy charges require evidence that each defendant committed at least one of the long list of overt acts in the indictment.

“This is essential,” the filing says.

It adds that “proof a defendant simply knew about a conspiracy … or associated with members of the group, is not enough (for a conviction), even if he approved of what was happening or did not object to it.”

Proving a conspiracy doesn't require a written or even a spoken agreement among conspirators, the filing explains. A mutual understanding — spoken or unspoken — can suffice.

The weapons charges are more straightforward. Prosecutors only have to have to show the weapons were in a defendant's possession and not legally registered.