Whitmer kidnap plot trial delayed again as defense combs recordings

Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The trial for five men charged in a plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been delayed for at least another four months after defense attorneys asked for more time.

The trial for Brandon Caserta, Barry Croft, Adam Fox, Kaleb Franks and Daniel Harris was set to begin on Oct. 12. It’s not clear when it will start, but the judge said it won’t be until at least mid-February.

The attorneys said it will take weeks to finish going through hundreds of hours of secret audio recordings that they say could help prove the suspects’ innocence.

The five were in court together for the first time on Friday in front of the judge who will try their case. They wore orange jumpsuits, handcuffs and shackles. Harris waved at family members who sat a few rows behind him.

Defense attorneys claim entrapment and say that audio from clandestine meetings, secretly recorded by government agents, could help prove it.

“The transcripts are a critical issue for the defense,” Fox’s attorney Chris Gibbons told the judge.

Attorneys say they have more than 1,000 hours of audio to get through and have hired a court reporter to transcribe it. They don’t expect to finish that until mid-December.

Fox’s attorney told the judge his “client may well testify at trial.”

All five suspects agreed to the delay. They are being held at the Newaygo County Jail.

“My client understands this adjournment comes at his expense,” Fox’s attorney said.

“It’s coming out of their hides,” U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker said of the suspects.

The prosecution did not object to the delay. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler said he expects the trial to last up to three weeks. He denied withholding evidence from the defense.

“We have given them the vast majority of everything,” he told the judge.

“We’re continuing to investigate the case, interviewing new witnesses, tracking down new leads,” he added.

The delay is the second in the case. The trial was originally set to start in March.

The FBI in October 2020 said it broke up a plot to kidnap Whitmer. Six people were charged in federal court while eight others were charged in state court with aiding them.

One of the six, Ty Garbin, pleaded guilty in January and was sentenced in August to six years in prison. He has said he would cooperate with prosecutors.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office, in court documents, argued the men were predisposed to commit the crime and were not entrapped.

Authorities say the suspects, antigovernment extremists and members of a militia called the Wolverine Watchmen, were angry about executive orders Whitmer, a Democrat, had issued to mitigate the spread of coronavirus because they believed she was overstepping her authority.

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