GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — FBI agents could watch a live video feed whenever they wanted at two training sites allegedly used by the men accused of plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, according to testimony Thursday in U.S. District Court.
On Thursday, the second day of testimony in the trial of four men accused of the conspiracy, one of the agents testified about the gadgets the FBI used to track the suspects.
They installed pole cams, which are usually attached to utility poles, that could move and that sent live video to the FBI.
At the Luther training site, the FBI also installed special cameras to photograph the license plates of passing vehicles.
FBI agents used airplanes and drones for surveillance; they used recording devices planted in key fobs.
The FBI displayed to the jury three-dimensional images of the governor’s Elk Rapids cottage and the nearby bridge that the suspects are accused of planning to blow up.
Barry Croft Jr., Adam Fox, Brandon Caserta and Daniel Harris are accused of conspiring to kidnap the governor from that Elk Rapids cottage in 2020, angry about her response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Much of Thursday’s testimony focused on Croft, the Delaware man identified by the feds as a leader in the plot. An agent said the FBI started investigating him in October 2019 — months before the alleged plot started.
The agent said informant Stephen Robeson helped connect the FBI to Croft.
Robeson, who has since been accused of being a double agent, wore secret recording devices at a militia meeting in Ohio on June 6, 2020, the day the alleged conspiracy began. He also wore one at a training exercise in Cambria, Wisconsin, and in Luther.
In those recordings played for the jury, there’s lots of talk from Croft about making bombs and using BBs and pennies as shrapnel.
The pennies, he said, will come out fast and hot.
“They’ll go right through your skin,” he said in the recorded conversation.
One of the recordings from Luther captured a bomb exploding.
“We need demolition taught to these men quickly,” Croft told Robeson in Cambria.
The explosives, Croft told Robeson, will help cause a “tornado” of activity, allowing for a “quick and precise grab on that f—— governor.”
An FBI agent testified the agency wrapped up the investigation in October 2020 after learning the suspects were trying to get ingredients for a bomb, possibly from someone other than the undercover FBI agent who was posing as a bomb-maker.
“There was a real concern they might obtain real-life explosives,” the agent testified.
After Croft’s arrest in New Jersey in October 2020, FBI agents found a receipt for $353 worth of fireworks, all mortars, in his car from a shop in Maryland, with names like, “Electric Rain,” “Bounty Hunter” and “Thunderstorm.”
Also on Thursday, the attorney for Caserta replayed a video to the jury showing him firing a weapon during one of the training exercises, suggesting he was a terrible shot. Caserta fired repeatedly at a steel target, but hit it three times. The assistant U.S. Attorney joked he’d have stipulated that Caserta was a bad shot.
The trial, which is expected to last up to six weeks, will resume on Monday.