Saturday, July 24, 2021

Feds thwart plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer, according to FBI affidavit

October 8, 2020
<p>People gather on the lawn at the rally at the Capitol on April 30, 2020, in Lansing. Crowds gathered to protest Gov. Gretchen Whitmer&#x27;s stay-at-home order. The protest started outside before crowds moved inside where they were stopped from entering the House and Senate due to social distancing guidelines. One of the ringleaders from the rally was allegedly connected to the plot to kidnap Whitmer on Oct. 8, 2020.</p>

People gather on the lawn at the rally at the Capitol on April 30, 2020, in Lansing. Crowds gathered to protest Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's stay-at-home order. The protest started outside before crowds moved inside where they were stopped from entering the House and Senate due to social distancing guidelines. One of the ringleaders from the rally was allegedly connected to the plot to kidnap Whitmer on Oct. 8, 2020.

Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

Seven individuals were charged by the Attorney General’s Office for acts of terrorism under Michigan state law, according to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel Thursday.

The suspects are charged with alleged attempts to identify the home addresses of law enforcement officers in order to target them, threats of violence to instigate a civil war and engaging in planning and training for an operation to attack the Capitol building and kidnap government officials, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

In total, 19 state felony charges were filed by Nessel against the seven individuals known to be members or associates of the militia group Wolverine Watchmen, according to a release.

Those identified in the release are Paul Bellar, Shawn Fix, Eric Molitor, Michael Null, William Null and Pete Musico.

Michael Null, Wiliam Null and Molitor were arraigned Thursday. A cash bond has been set at $250,000 for Michael and William Null, probable cause conferences have been scheduled for Oct. 14 with preliminary exams Oct. 21, the release states. Musico and Morrison are expected to be arraigned at 2 p.m., Fix is in custody and pending arraignment. 

“There has been a disturbing increase in anti-government rhetoric and the re-emergence of groups that embrace extremist ideologies,” Nessel said in the release. “These groups often seek to recruit new members by seizing on a moment of civil unrest and using it to advance their agenda of self-reliance and armed resistance. This is more than just political disagreement or passionate advocacy, some of these groups’ mission is simply to create chaos and inflict harm upon others.” 

According to the release, charges against all those identified for providing material support for terrorist attacks constitute a 20-year felony and/or a fine of up to $20,000. Additional charges include gang membership, felony firearm possession and threats of terrorism.

The announcement was made in conjunction with U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Andrew Birge, U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of Michigan Matthew Schneider, the Federal Bureau of Investigations and Michigan State Police.

Six men charged additionally for conspiring to kidnap the governor

Birge and the FBI also charged six individuals for allegedly conspiring to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer after being arrested Wednesday night. The individuals are identified in the record as Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta.

According to the complaint, Fox, Croft, Garbin, Franks, Harris and Caserta conspired to kidnap Whitmer form her vacation home in the Western District before the November election. If convicted, they may face up to life in prison.

In early 2020, the FBI became aware of the discussion about the violent overthrow of certain government and law-enforcement officials. Via electronic communication, individuals identified as Adam Fox and Barry Croft, who agreed to unite others to take violent action against multiple state governments.

The state governments were targeted based on the belief that they violated the U.S. Constitution, according to court records.

In June 2020, Croft, Fox and 13 others from several states met in Ohio, the record said.

"At one point, several members talked about state governments they believed were violating the U.S. Constitution, including the government of Michigan and Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Several members talked about murdering “tyrants” or “taking” a sitting governor," the record said.

After the Ohio meeting, Fox decided to reach out to a Michigan-based militia group. The group had already been under the FBI's radar. According to the affidavit, Fox had expressed his intention to kidnap Whitmer before the national election.

Through confidential sources, undercover agents and clandestine reportings, Birge said law enforcement learned particular individuals were acting in furtherance of plans to kidnap the governor. 

“Federal and state law enforcement are committed to working together to make sure violent extremists never succeed with their plans. Particularly, when they target our duly elected leaders,” Birge said.

The alleged involved used operational security measures including communicating by encrypted messaging platforms and using code words/phrases to avoid detection by law enforcement, Birge said.

On two occasions, members of the alleged conspiracy group conducted surveillance on Whitmer’s vacation home. According to the complaint, Birge said Fox and Croft discussed detonating explosive devices to divert police from the area surrounding the home and Fox inspected the underside of a Michigan highway bridge for places to seat an explosive.

Birge said the complaint further alleges Fox purchased a taser for use in the kidnapping and that the group successfully detonated an explosive device wrapped in shrapnel to test anti-personnel capabilities.

“All of us in Michigan can disagree about politics, but those disagreements should never, ever amount to violence,” Schneider said in the announcement Thursday. “Because of the hard work of men and women of law enforcement, police officers and federal agents, violence has been prevented today.”

Editor's Note: This story was updated to include copies of the affidavit from the FBI and comments from the AG's office

Discussion

Share and discuss “Feds thwart plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer, according to FBI affidavit” on social media.