GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Even before attorneys for four men accused of plotting to kidnap the governor got their chance to start their defense, they’ve already run into obstacles.
U.S. District Judge Robert J. Jonker ruled on Tuesday, after jurors left the courtroom, that two men subpoenaed for the defense won’t have to take the witness stand.
Both men, witnesses for suspect Daniel Harris, invoked the Fifth Amendment, saying they feared their testimony could lead to criminal charges against them.
The court had appointed attorneys for the men.
One of the men, a long-time friend of Harris, was in Luther, near Cadillac, for Wolverine Watchmen militia training in September 2020, though he wasn’t part of the group that conducted night-time reconnaissance of the governor’s Elk Rapids cottage that weekend.
His attorney told the judge he feared the man would be “painted with the same brush” as the men charged in the plot.
Both men refused to comment as they left the courthouse on Tuesday.
Julia Kelly, the attorney for Harris, also refused to comment on the ruling.
On Wednesday, a key defense witness, FBI informant Stephen Robeson, is expected in court to ask the judge to keep him off the stand, saying he’ll invoke the Fifth Amendment.
The feds have said he could face criminal charges because he became a “double agent” and helped the suspects.
Attorneys for suspects Barry Croft Jr. and Adam Fox want Robeson to testify, saying he played a big part in entrapping their clients.
Much of Tuesday’s testimony came from FBI agents about evidence they seized from the suspects — weapons, ammo and gear that included gas masks.
One FBI agent came all the way from Delaware to testify that a search of Barry Croft Jr.’s black Dodge Durango turned up a $353 receipt for fireworks and a box holding patches from the 3-Percenters.
Federal prosecutors also played a recorded phone call between suspect Brandon Caserta, who was housed at the Newaygo County Jail, and a reporter from Buzzfeed on Aug. 30, 2021, talking about entrapment.
“Tell me about Big Dan?” the reporter asked, referring to informant Dan Chappel. Attorneys have argued that Chappel helped orchestrate any alleged plot.
“You mentioned he was kind of running it. You have examples of that?” the reporter asked.
Caserta responded: “There was never any communications between me and him like about this so-called plot. He was never like, ‘Hey, you want to kidnap the governor or anything?’ He never said anything like that to me.”
Outside the courthouse, Caserta’s attorney, Michael Hills, said that proves his client wasn’t part of the plot.
The FBI testified about the evidence seized from Caserta’s apartment in Canton, including a black flag with a red letter “a” and a red circle around the “a” — the symbol for anarchy.
According to earlier testimony, Caserta had talked about his desire to hunt down COVID-19 contact tracers and kill them, that going after the governor wasn’t enough and that he wanted to drink blood from the skulls of Zionist bankers.
Prosecutors said they expect to wrap up their case on Wednesday. It’s not clear how long it will take for the defense before the judge sends it to the jury.