The following contains editorial content which is the opinion of the author, a staff writer for Law Enforcement Today.
GRAND RAPIDS, MI- In case you missed it, Law Enforcement Today recently reported on the government’s case going down in flames concerning the alleged kidnapping plot of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Last week, a Michigan federal jury found two of the defendants not guilty of all charges while the jury was unable to reach a verdict against two others. Now, we’re learning there is much more to the verdicts, according to Gateway Pundit.
Since word of the “plot” became public, LET has reported on aspects of the case which seemed to indicate it was less a grassroots conspiracy to kidnap a sitting governor and more of a government-facilitated plot to demonize “right wing extremists” and by extension Trump voters.
In the case of the four defendants facing trial in a Grand Rapids, Michigan courtroom, the attorney for defendant Brandon Caserta, Michael Hills, produced text messages which showed an FBI agent coercing “an informant to lie, frame and innocent man, and delete text messages,” Gateway Pundit reported.
According to the outlet, federal prosecutors refuse to give up text messages and laptops from FBI informants relative to the case. Those messages would offer proof that “the FBI actually hatched the plot, paid for the plot, ran the plot, and set up the innocent men” in the plan.
As LET has previously reported, at least one of those involved in hatching the scheme, FBI agent Richard Trask, was arrested for domestic violence after his wife refused to participate in a swingers outing.
The fact the defendants were found innocent or had a hung jury is even more shocking when we learn that the trial judge went out of his way to prevent a large portion of exculpatory evidence from being entered by the defense. Gateway Pundit noted that six defense witnesses were blocked from testifying.
Moreover, none of the hijinks perpetrated by the FBI was permitted to be entered into the record during the trial. Fortunately, enough evidence was entered which allowed the jury to see the scheme for what it apparently was…a setup by federal law enforcement.
According to BuzzFeed:
The split verdict calls into question the Justice Department’s strategy and beyond that, its entire approach to combating domestic extremism. Defense attorneys in the case, along with observers from across the political spectrum, have argued the FBI’s efforts to make the case, which involved at least a dozen confidential informants, went beyond legitimate law enforcement and into outright entrapment.
But the most striking thing about the closely watched 15-day trial might be what the jury never got to see.
Both before and during the trial, prosecutors went to extraordinary lengths to exclude evidence and witnesses that might undermine their arguments, while winning the right to bring in almost anything favorable to their own side. As a result, defense attorneys were largely reduced to nibbling at the edges of the government’s case in hopes of instilling doubt in the jurors’ minds, and to making claims about official misconduct with vanishingly few pieces of evidence to support them.
Over and over during the course of the trial, the prosecution objected to any attempts by defendants to provide context for the often shocking soundbites and text messages shown in court—objections sustained by a judge who agreed that such material risked confusing the jury.
The result was, at least from the defense’s point of view, a stunningly one-sided presentation that left the preponderance of evidence out of court and gave jurors precious little to balance against the Justice Department’s claims.
Whether they crossed the sharply defined line into entrapment is a matter of legal definitions. But the tactics employed by the FBI to develop its case against the defendants—despite the Justice Department’s best efforts to keep those tactics secret—confirm to a growing popular conception of government overreach.
Let’s consider this for a moment. Here we have the Justice Department going to such lengths over what was in effect a non-plot which made little if any practical sense, in order to make an example out of what amounted to low-level defendants. How far do you think they would go in a more high-profile incident, such as, for example, the January 6 US Capitol siege?
It has been widely reported that the FBI and other federal agencies were much more than casual observers at the “worst insurrection in world history” that took place on January 6, 2021.
There are more than just a few questions about individuals present at that event, who have been widely identified and shown as being active participants in encouraging the event, who have yet to be charged with anything. Ray Epps, for example.
While a number of passive protesters who were merely on the Capitol grounds have been locked up for 15 months, some in solitary confinement, people such as Epps remain free. Why? Could it be that just as in the Whitmer “kidnapping” scheme the FBI was more involved in the plot than has been discovered?
Moreover, why did Nancy Pelosi turn down the offer of National Guard troops from President Donald Trump?
Why has the January 6 “inquisition squad” ignored the security shortcomings in the lead up to the Capitol protest, shortcomings which were widely identified from a number of law enforcement sources, including the former chief of the Capitol Police Steven Sund?
If we have learned anything from the Michigan trial it is that the federal government will go to great lengths to go after those from the political right, be they “right wing extremists” or merely those who are opposed to government overreach, such as in the case of Whitmer and other power mad governors and officials.
Even to the point of facilitating a crime. In this case, they also apparently had a judge who was attempting to aid and abet them.
What is gratifying is that a jury of their peers saw through what the Justice Department was trying to pull in Michigan, as well as the hijinks being engaged in by the judge. It appears they reached the correct decision in the case of the four defendants.
Those who are engaged in true extremism, be it from the right or the left deserve to be convicted and put in jail. But when the government is a significant part of those schemes, justice needs to prevail. And government needs to be accountable.
For our report on the verdict in the “kidnapping” trial, we invite you to:
GRAND RAPIDS, MI- Many people have long suspected that the alleged “plot” to “kidnap” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was questionable at best, especially after it was revealed that the FBI was more than a mere bystander in the case.
Law Enforcement Today has previously reported on the numerous “holes” in the case. Now, a federal jury appears to agree, having acquitted two defendants outright in the case, while failing to reach a verdict against the other two suspects. The trial judge declared a mistrial against those two defendants, Yahoo News reports.
At the trial in Grand Rapids, four men—Daniel Harris, 24; Adam Fox, 38; Barry Croft Jr., 46; and Brandon Caserta, 33, were all charged with conspiracy. All but Caserta were additionally charged with knowingly conspiring to use weapons of mass destructions against persons or property, which was ostensibly designed to slow responding authorities.
In addition, Croft and Harris were charged with possession of an unregistered destructive device, while Harris was charged with possession of a semi-automatic rifle that wasn’t registered to him.
In the case of Harris, he was found not guilty on all four charges, while Caserta was found not guilty of conspiracy. The jury was unable to reach verdicts in the cases against Fox and Croft, which led to the mistrial declaration.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed in the outcome,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge told reporters outside the courtroom Friday afternoon. “We thought that the jury would convict beyond [a] reasonable doubt based on the evidence we put forward.”
Birge, in a brief statement, indicated his office will retry the defendants on the hung counts.
“We have two defendants that are awaiting trial and we’ll get to work on that,” he told reporters before walking away without taking questions.
Meanwhile, Caserta’s defense lawyer praised the jury’s decision while blaming the FBI’s involvement in the case.
“I think what the FBI did is unconscionable,” attorney Mike Hills said outside the courtroom. “And I think the jury just sent them a message loud and clear.”
The verdict did not set will with Whitmer’s office, with her chief of staff complaining about the “normalization of political violence.”
“Today, Michiganders and Americans—especially our children—are living through the normalization of political violence,” said chief of staff JoAnne Huls.
“The plot to kidnap and kill a governor may seem like an anomaly. But we must be honest about what it really is: the result of violent, divisive rhetoric that is all too common across our country. There must be accountability and consequences for those who commit heinous crimes. Without accountability, extremists will be emboldened.”
Huls’ invocation about children being exposed to violence is an interesting dichotomy, given Whitmer’s support for abortion up until the 9th month of pregnancy. Apparently it all depends what type of “violence” one is talking about.
According to the Boston Herald, the acquittals came on the fifth day of deliberations in the case, only hours after the jury told the trial judge they were struggling to find a unanimous verdict against Fox and Croft. The judge instructed the jurors to continue working, however shortly after lunch, they told the judge thy were still deadlocked on some of the counts.
Meanwhile, Hill said the defendants in the case were doing nothing more than “rough talk.”
“We have the freedom to say that. If I don’t like the governor and it’s rough talk, I can do that in our country,” Hill said. “That’s what’s beautiful about this country. That’s what’s great about it.”
Meanwhile, Fox’s attorney, Chris Gibbons said that while his client hoped for an acquittal instead of a hung jury, he holds out hope for better results in a subsequent trial.
“Adam is disappointed that he’s going to be detained a bit longer,” Gibbons said, “but we’re waiting for a second trial and we’ll eventually get where we want to get which is the truth and the justice I think Adam is entitled to.”
Meanwhile two other men who had been arrested in the scheme, Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks pleaded guilty in the case and testified in the failed trial.
After the verdicts for Harris and Caserta were announced, they embraced their lawyers, finally freed by U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker after being locked up for 18 months while awaiting trial, the Herald said.
The case came about in 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and draconian emergency orders put in place primarily by Democrat governors such as Whitmer. At one point, armed protesters took to the streets of Michigan’s state capital, Lansing, to protest Whitmer’s orders.
The case, however, was marked by controversy, with the lead FBI investigator in the case, Richard Trask, being arrested for domestic violence after his wife refused to participate in a “swingers” event. He was eventually dismissed from the FBI.
There were also allegations that the FBI not only had informants (and possibly agents) embedded in the plot, but were more than observers, actually facilitating much of the scheme, including the supply of explosives, as previously reported by Law Enforcement Today.
According to BuzzFeed, the FBI had at least 12 informants and undercover agents embedded in the plot, which amounted to almost more than the actual participants in the scheme.
It is alleged that FBI-connected persons had encouraged militia members to organize the plot, while also facilitating some of the interactions behind it. The defendants claimed that undercover agents and informants were a crucial component of the alleged plot, while maintaining that without FBI involvement and influence, there may never have even been a conspiracy to kidnap Whitmer.
For example according to The Daily Caller, one of the informants, a man who came from Wisconsin planned meetups for the far-right militia members, which included paying for hotel rooms and foods as a cudgel to encourage those militia members. BuzzFeed reported that the initial plans to kidnap Whitmer took place at those meetings.
One other informant, an Iraq war veteran named “Dan” became so embedded in the operation that he became second-in-command of the group.
“Dan” was instrumental in the plot, encouraging the so-called “mastermind” behind the plan to kidnap Whitmer to move the scheme forward while then being instrumental in setting the trap which eventually ensnared some of the defendants.
“Dan” also arranged for an undercover FBI agent named “Red” to become part of the scheme. “Red” was alleged to be an “explosives expert” who would arrange for the group to obtain the explosives needed to blow up a bridge which would inhibit law enforcement’s response to Whitmer’s “kidnapping.” “Red” told the conspirators that it would require $4,000 to purchase enough C-4 to blow up the Elk River bridge, whereby the men agreed to raise enough funds to purchase the explosives.
During the trial which spanned thirteen days, prosecutors produced evidence from undercover agents, a crucial informant, as well as Garbin and Franks. Jurors also heard secretly recorded conversations, as well as read violent social media posts and chat messages.
Garbin alleged that the plan was to kidnap Whitmer and “cause enough chaos to trigger a civil war before the election,” the Herald reported, with the hope being to prevent Biden from winning the White House.
BuzzFeed meanwhile said that at least some of the defendants allege the investigation was a premeditated effort by the government to undermine their militia movement, with one accusing the government of entrapment based on the involvement of the FBI’s undercover agents and informants.
For more on our previous reporting on this case, we invite you to:
LANSING, MI – An interesting development has come regarding the criminal case revolving around the alleged kidnapping plot of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, as federal prosecutors reportedly dropped the testimony of an FBI special agent involved in the investigation.
Apparently, the FBI agent’s testimony was dropped in the case after it was discovered the agent engaged in an anti-Trump rant online where he wished former President Trump supporters would “burn in hell”.
However, it’s unclear if the discovery of the social media posts led to the actions taken by the prosecutors, as this FBI agent has also stirred up controversy in recent months over an arrest regarding alleged domestic violence against his spouse.
Prosecutors gave defense teams access to Agent Richard Trask's social media posts this week, with at least one taking aim at Trump and his supporters.
"If you still support our piece of s*** president you can f*** off."
His testimony was dropped.https://t.co/g5bwhNm0tn
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) September 3, 2021
Attorney Michael Harris, who is representing one of the six defendants in case revolving around the alleged kidnapping plot of Governor Whitmer, said that during a September 2nd court hearing, prosecutors decided to drop FBI Agent Richard Trask’s testimony during a pending October trial.
Prosecutors had recently given access to Trask’s social media posts to the defense teams, which Hills found that Trask had made the following post back in late March of 2020:
“If you still support our piece of shit president you can fuck off. As someone whose wife works in the hospital I hope you burn in hell along with your douchebag fucking reality tv star. His ego is going to kill a lot of people and anyone who supports that is a dumbass. This is what you get when you elect an egotistica/narcissistic (sic) maniac to the top office. He needs people to be nice to him or he won’t help. Fuck you douche.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office hasn’t come forward with any specific reason as to why Tark’s testimony would no longer be used, but this recent development could be linked to not only the social media post – but Trask’s July arrest for allegedly beating his wife.
Trask was charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm and is facing up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Andy Arena, who formerly ran the FBI’s Detroit field office, noted at the time of Trask’s arrest that his credibility as a witness in the Whitmer case could be called into question:
“It’s the last thing you want for a major case like this. Any time you give the defense any ammunition, it’s not good.”
With the trial slated to begin in October, there are also challenges associated with finding potential jurors due to the highly political nature of the case.
A 32-page proposed questionnaire filed in federal court on September 3rd shows that prospective jurors will be presented with questions on whether “have experience or training with explosive devices,” or if they, a family member, “or any close friend ever belonged to a militia.”
There are even questions proposed on whether jurors “have any strong feelings about masks.”
Another matter complicating the case is that the defense for those charged have continued to allege that the cases against their clients are rife with overreaching charges due to the FBI agents who were working undercover in the case being alleged of furthering the alleged kidnapping plot themselves.
And a July report by none other than Buzzfeed News went into great detail regarding how deeply embedded the FBI were in this investigation – noting that at least 12 confidential informants were involved and some of those FBI agents served as key players in this alleged kidnapping plot.
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We at Law Enforcement Today provided a deep dive back in July detailing the case analysis that showed just how deeply embedded the FBI and informants were in the case, and the concerns this matter has brought up over whether this alleged plot would have even existed without the FBI’s insertion into the matter.
Here’s that previous report.
MICHIGAN- A shocking new revelation has come about in the case of five defendants arrested in connection with an alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D).
According to BuzzFeed, the federal government in the form of the FBI used at least a dozen confidential informants to infiltrate the group involved in the scheme, according to a federal court filing on Monday.
In the filing from the attorney of one of the five defendants in the case, prosecutors are being asked to release information about those twelve informants, including their relationship with the FBI as well as what role if any they played in developing the case.
The filing was among some 15 new defense motions filed by defense attorneys. Other requests are for a change in venue, motions to suppress evidence gathered in a search warrant, and a request to try at least one of the defendants separately.
Taken in totality, the filings indicate the course defense attorneys may be pursuing in the case, with at least some of them indicating they plan to pursue a defense that the FBI had “induced or persuaded” the defendants to go along with the plot.
Last October, the plot to allegedly kidnap Whitmer, one of the most dictatorial of US governors during the COVID-19 pandemic, was revealed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
The announcement that six men had been charged in an alleged kidnapping conspiracy involving Whitmer went viral. Five of the men charged—Barry Croft, Adam Fox, Daniel Harris, Kaleb Franks, and Brandon Caserta—have all pleaded not guilty and are currently being held without bail.
The sixth suspect, Ty Garbin pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate in the case last January. It is unknown if prosecutors made a plea deal with him to gain his cooperation.
The DOJ said the defendants had met over a six-month period last year, where they had developed the scheme to kidnap Whitmer from her vacation home, then removing her out of state where she would be put on “trial” for being a “tyrant.” The plot was derailed before it was executed when the DOJ arrested the alleged plotters.
In addition to the six, eight other men were charged under the state’s anti-terrorism laws for providing material support to the defendants. All but two of the defendants live in Michigan, and at least half of the defendants are members of the militant Wolverine Watchmen, a militant group which has been associated with the Three Percenters, a militia group, BuzzFeed said.
The flurry of defense motions came Monday since it was the deadline for such motions in the case.
Federal prosecutors have admitted to using informants in the case, however thus far their activities and identities have been closely held, with the exception of one who testified in March.
Thus far, the DOJ has provided ID numbers connected to 12 confidential informants, however with only one exception has refused to provide background on how they were recruited, what compensation if any they received from the FBI, where they are based or their names, according to Franks’ attorney.
The attorney, Scott Graham said that such information is vital in “preparation of a defense to the charges.”
Franks has asked for his case to be moved out of the Western District of Michigan, claiming “press coverage of (and participation in) this matter has corrupted the potential trial atmosphere to the point that Mr. Franks will be denied a fair trial in Michigan.”
In claiming media involvement in the case, Graham specifically identified a motion filed by BuzzFeed seeking to obtain access to exhibits revealed at a hearing relative to the case in January and cited the risk of “prejudice in this case based on the extensive, negative pervasive press coverage of the allegations.”
In addition to the change of venue, Graham has also requested that Franks be tried separately, primarily because he isn’t facing a bomb charge that was added to the case earlier this year.
That particular count, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, was applied to three of the other defendants in the case, who allegedly attempted to build explosive devices or procure bomb-making materials.
Graham noted that by combining the cases, potential commentary by the government in court about that particular charge “will certainly go far in frightening jurors and eliciting emotional decisions from them.”
An attorney for Croft on Sunday filed a motion, claiming the government had provided over 5,000 duplicate files as it shared evidence, with at least 15 copies of the same audio recording. That, he said significantly increases the burden on the defense.
Croft’s attorney, Joshua Blanchard, also asked the court to exclude evidence that was secured from Croft’s Delaware home during an October search, claiming they were outside the scope of the warrant. Included in those items included a 1-kilogram silver bar, a handwritten note cipher, and “Mr. Croft’s hat.”
Apparently, Croft is allegedly known among Three Percenters of wearing a tri-corner hat much like those worn during the American Revolution.
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