GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Perhaps the most startling words heard Thursday in federal court in the governor kidnap conspiracy trial came from a secret recording at a militia training session in Cambria, Wisconsin.
It started with the voice of suspect Barry Croft Jr.’s 10-year-old daughter:
“Daddy, do you want a Dorito?” she asked.
“Honey, I’m making explosives,” Croft responded, before directing her to move and telling her, “I love you.”
It was during that training exercise that Croft and suspect Daniel Harris built an improvised exploding device, according to testimony.
An undercover FBI agent at that training said Croft tried twice to light the fuse, but that it failed to go off.
The trial before U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker resumed on Thursday for the four men accused of conspiring to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. It had been delayed for three days after an attorney in the case came down with COVID-19.
Thursday’s key witness was undercover FBI agent Mark Schweers.
The feds had hoped to conceal his identity, fearing his life could be in jeopardy. But the judge said he had to be identified.
The agent from Los Angeles posed as Mark, a man from the U.P. who had the same anti-government mindset as suspect Adam Fox.
Soon, he testified, he took an oath to join Fox’s 3-Percenter militia group and was named by Fox as the “Warden of the North.”
He wore a recording device that captured Fox’s talk of taking the governor.
“We want the b—-, we want the tyrant b—-,” the jurors heard. “I want to have the governor hog-tied, laid out on a table while we all pose around like we just made the world’s biggest goddamn drug bust, bro.”
The undercover FBI agent was also wearing a recording device at a barbecue in Belleville, where militia members had gathered.
He said that Fox talked of conducting reconnaissance of three different places to kidnap the governor: The governor’s residence in Lansing; the governor’s summer home on Mackinac Island; and her private home near Traverse City.
Fox, he said, was looking for “the target that would afford the best opportunity to conduct what he called a snatch and grab.”
Fox talked about sending “cupcakes,” code word for bombs, to the governor’s office in Lansing, according to the agent.
Fox assigned the undercover agent to conduct recon at the Mackinac Island home. The agent said he provided Fox with photographs of the home.
“He told me I had done well,” the agent testified.
The agent testified it was Fox who directed militia members as they conducted reconnaissance at the governor’s cottage in Elk Rapids.
Fox’s attorney, Christopher Gibbons, questioned the undercover FBI agent about one of the alleged plans to kidnap the governor.
“My understanding is that they would have left the governor in a boat without a motor in the middle of the lake,” the agent testified.
The plan involved taking a boat to the back of the governor’s Birch Lake cottage, grabbing her, stealing her car, driving her in her car to Lake Michigan and taking her out into the big lake on a second boat. Once in Lake Michigan, they would drop the boat motor into the lake, stranding the governor. Then, they would return to shore in another boat.
The attorney questioned where the men would get three boats for the mission.
Also on Thursday, Croft’s attorney, Joshua Blanchard, questioned how the FBI was working behind the scenes to help direct militia members.
It was an attempt to show the four suspects were led along by the feds.
FBI agent Christopher Long testified that at one point militia members at a meeting in Ohio talked about voting Croft from the group — saying he was too violent even for them and that he wanted to move too quickly.
They were afraid he would get them arrested, the agent testified.
“Mr. Croft was ready to do it right now,” Long testified. “Their concern was he would get them locked up.”
That meeting was held July 18, 2020. Members of the alleged conspiracy were at the meeting which defense attorneys say was hosted by informant Stephen Robeson.
To keep Croft involved, the FBI agent told informant Jennifer Plunk to convince the militia members to stick with Croft. They did.
Croft’s attorney also raised questions about the behavior of the FBI’s informants in the case.
FBI agent Long acknowledged under cross-examination that informant Plunk sold a 9 mm handgun to Wisconsin-based informant, Stephen Robeson, who was a felon not allowed to possess a firearm. He said the FBI did not give Plunk permission to do that.
The FBI started looking into Croft after getting a tip from its office in Dallas in April 2019.
Part of the tip involved Croft’s social media posts about Kevin KC Massey, who led a militia in Texas.
According to a January 2020 story in The Washington Post, Massey was the leader of a Texas anti-immigrant militia who was wanted by the feds. The report states that more than six months after he went into hiding, he was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
But the agent said the feds were also concerned about Croft’s violent, anti-government statements.
“The comments Mr. Croft was making were direct threats to law enforcement, very violent comments,” Long testified. “He wanted to burn police officers out of their houses and catch them as they were jumping out of their second-story windows, and have a people’s trial and hang them from the nearest tree.”