GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The FBI informant who quickly became second in command of the militia group he was investigating testified on Monday that he provided some ideas and helped make some of the plans for the men accused in a plot to kidnap the governor.
“Big Dan,” identified in court records as Dan Chappel, is considered a key witness for federal prosecutors.
He returned to the stand Monday for cross-examination by defense attorneys who are trying to prove that Chappel helped orchestrate the scheme.
Chappel said the FBI agents he worked with had told him he couldn’t give the suspects any ideas or help make any “attack plans.”
But when asked by Adam Fox’s attorney, Christopher Gibbons, if he did help plan an attack, Chappel responded: “To a degree, yes.”
At a meeting in the Vac Shack basement in Wyoming where Fox lived, they were discussing what they’d need if they tried to get to the governor at the governor’s summer home on Mackinac Island.
Chappel testified he suggested what kinds of helicopters they’d need for such an operation, including the possibility of using a Blackhawk helicopter.
“I’m not professional law enforcement,” Chappel said under cross-examination. “I’m just an average guy. I had no playbook to go off; this was all fluid every day.”
He said the FBI was listening to the conversation live.
Chappel also testified that he pushed Fox to conduct the first reconnaissance on the governor’s cottage in Elk Rapids.
“You want to get intel on residence 2 (the cottage)?” Big Dan texted Fox on Aug. 16, 2020.
Two days later, FBI agent Jayson Chambers texted Big Dan: “Might need to eventually start bugging people to find the locations…”
In another text to Big Dan, FBI agent Chambers wrote: “Try to get as many as possible to go with for Saturday.”
Chappel acknowledged that he told Fox what date they’d be conducting that first reconnaissance on the Elk Rapids cottage — Aug. 29, 2020.
That day, Chappel drove Fox and another man to Elk Rapids for the recon mission.
The trip included several stops where Fox and the third man on the recon mission smoked pot, Chappel testified.
Croft’s attorney, Joshua Blanchard, has argued that the alleged plot was based on “crazy talk” fueled by pot.
The day after the first recon mission in Elk Rapids, Chappel texted suspect Ty Garbin about how they could block the bridge on US-31 to cut off police. In the text, Chappel used emojis of a bridge, scissors and a police car.
The plan later included using explosives to blow up the bridge.
In a follow-up message in early September, a few days after that first recon mission in Elk Rapids, Chappel texted Fox, pushing for another recon mission: “Want to get eyes on it (the governor’s cottage) on foot?”
During the first mission, they had only driven by.
It also was Chappel who “suggested to Adam Fox and others they could ambush the governor on her way to her place in Traverse City, catching her in transit,” Fox’s attorney said.
Big Dan agreed that he also suggested to “blow her door down.”
Some of the plans were discussed at a meeting at Fox’s home in the basement of the Vac Shack in Wyoming.
“This was all on the fly with myself and Adam,” Chappel testified, adding that he was trying to maintain his role as an informant.
He said he also was trying to “de-escalate” Fox’s plan to kidnap and kill the governor.
Defense attorneys also are trying to show the informant and the FBI played a role in keeping Fox connected to the Wolverine Watchmen.
Fox and suspect Barry Croft Jr. were leaders in the 3-Percenters movement, while others involved in the alleged plot were part of the Wolverine Watchman.
At one point, Chappel had to vouch for Fox so the Wolverine Watchmen would allow him to join them for a training exercise in Munith.
“I don’t think we should boot him,” Chappel wrote in a text message to the leadership of the Wolverine Watchmen. “In a way, we’re already tied to him. From at the rally (in Lansing). We all dress alike. I know he’s not tactically sound, but he’s willing to learn.”
The FBI agent later texted Chappel: “You did a great job with leadership and Adam.”
The informant responded: “Awesome. Building my resume.”
Fox was allowed to attend the Munith training.
In another text, FBI agent Chambers told Big Dan: “Look at you bringing people together.”