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Attorney outlines probable defense case for men accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan governor

Posted at 5:06 PM, Oct 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-13 18:28:22-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Three men accused by federal authorities of a plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer are being detained after a preliminary hearing and bond hearing.

In federal court Tuesday, a Grand Rapids-based judge determined Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Castera will be detained while going through the remainder of the court process due to the severity of the accusations against them.

The attorneys for two of the other men accused, Adam Fox and Ty Garbin, requested their hearings be pushed back. The preliminary hearings for those two must happen sometime in the next week or so.

“This is a conspiracy charge. A conspiracy is an agreement by a number of people to commit an unlawful attack,” criminal defense attorney Randall Levine said.

Despite the evidence from the government, including the vacuum shop in Grand Rapids used as a headquarters for meetings, trips by the group to the governor's northern Michigan home to conduct surveillance, and attending militia training across state lines and in Michigan, there is still a burden of proof that must be met, according to Levine.

“I suspect the defense opposed will involve claims that the speech was protected by the first amendment and/or that it was merely speech, and did not contain overt acts sufficient to constitute a crime,” Levine said.

The judge did make note during the hearings that attending and being part of militia training is not illegal.

No recording is allowed in federal court, but the basis for most of the attorney's arguments for why their clients should not be detained is because their involvement did not evolve to the level of action.

“Conspiracy charges are easily brought. They’re difficult to defend. The defense, generally speaking, will be the acts of the conspirators did not go far enough in order to express their intention to do harm,” Levine said.

While all those questioned Tuesday are alleged to have involvement in the plot to harm the governor, including abandoning her on a boat in the middle of Lake Michigan, the FBI agent on the stand said not all members of the group are considered "leaders." The agent said Adam Fox, a Grand Rapids area man, is the main person who led the efforts.