GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Five of the six men charged with conspiracy to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer pleaded not guilty Thursday in federal court.
A federal grand jury indicted the six men on the conspiracy charge, which carries a sentence of up to life in prison.
The five who pleaded not guilty appeared in federal court by video feed in U.S. District Court in separate hearings Thursday. They are Daniel Harris, 23, of Lake Orion; Ty Garbin, 24, of Livingston County; Kaleb Franks, 26, of Waterford; Adam Fox, 37, of Wyoming, and Brandon Caserta, 32, of Canton Township.
Barry G. Croft Jr., 44, of Bear, Delaware, also was indicted by a federal grand jury in the conspiracy, but no date has been set for his arraignment.
Fox, who lived in the basement of a Grand Rapids vacuum cleaner shop, was a member of the Michigan III%ers militia group and was the leader of the conspiracy, the feds said.
Eight men believed to be members of a second anti-government group, the Wolverine Watchmen, also are accused in the scheme. They are charged in state court with crimes that include providing material support for terrorist acts.
Some of the Wolverine Watchmen are accused of planning and training for other violent crimes, including storming the Michigan Capitol building.
Authorities say the alleged conspirators targeted Whitmer because they believed her executive orders in response to the coronavirus were an overreach of her power.
Apparently, the plan was to take her to Wisconsin and try her for treason or leave her stranded in a boat in Lake Michigan.
Investigators said some of the suspects scoped out the governor’s vacation home in Antrim County. The group also allegedly designed and tested bombs, bought a Taser to use in the abduction and discussed blowing up a bridge, investigators have said.
Federal and state authorities broke up the alleged plot in early October with help from paid informants and an undercover agent.
The FBI said it had been keeping an eye on the group since early in the year after becoming aware of online posts about overthrowing the government.
Defense attorneys for some of the men have said they were guilty of nothing but talking big.