NewsThe Retrial: Governor Kidnapping Plot


Defense rests on day 14 of the Governor Whitmer kidnapping plot trial

day 14 harris.jpeg
Posted at 8:19 AM, Mar 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-31 22:11:44-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Prosecutors and defense attorneys have rested their cases and closing arguments will begin Friday morning in the trial of four men accused of plotting to kidnap and kill Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Daniel Harris took the stand Thursday in his own defense in the trial of four men accused of plotting to kidnap and kill Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Harris was the only one of the four defendants to take the stand in the case.

The prosecution rested its case Wednesday.

Harris was placed onto the witness stand before the jury was brought in Thursday morning, so they wouldn't see him walk up there in cuffs, potentially prejudicing his case.

Harris began his testimony by speaking about his home and family life prior to his October 2020 arrest.

He graduated from Lake Orion Baptist in 2015, while living with his parents Robert and Penny Harris. He said he "absolutely" has a close relationship with them.

Harris enlisted in the Marine Corps delayed entry program when he was 17-years-old, needing parental consent to do so. He said his family has a long tradition of military service.

He served as a rifleman, before being discharged in June 2019.

Harris said he was given the nicknames "Beaker" and Toucan Sam" during his time in the military.

He testified about struggling after coming back home from the military, saying, "My parents treated me like I was in high school again… so it was a tough time... finding people I who understood me."

Harris said he eventually found a role at DK Security that matched his work ethic, after leaving a previous security firm he didn't like.

He was working on getting a federal contract to do security work at Kabul International Airport in Afghanistan. Nothing ended up coming of this avenue.

Despite that, Harris said he ended up joining a 'MotorCity Boogaloo' Facebook page started by a friend because he was interested in further firearms training.

"If I was going back into the world of infantry, it's a very perishable skillset... we have a saying, if you don’t use it you’ll lose it. And you can lose it very fast," Harris explained on the stand.

His defense attorney asked him about a chat conversation in which Harris told someone he "knew how to make things go boom", which prosecutors have brought up in trial.

"Being in the infantry, I get to have fun with things like rocket launchers and grenades. Not making them obviously, but shooting them," Harris said.

In regards to the Wolverine Watchmen, Harris said the first "training" meeting he attended consisted only of "very basic" maneuvers.

"I could have done it with my eyes closed," he said about them.

Harris spoke about first meeting Kaleb Franks, one of the other men originally charged in the alleged plot, at a Black Lives Matter rally in Lake Orion in early 2020.

What was happening in the Summer of 2020, Harris's attorney Julia Kelly asked him.

"America was on fire... I'm pretty sure George Floyd had just died," Harris responded.

Harris was asked by his attorney whether or not he was aware of a group meeting at the Vac Shack in June 2020.

Harris said he was aware, but that he did not end up going. Prosecutors say planning for the alleged kidnap plot took place at this meeting below the Grand Rapids vacuum repair shop.

“Everything in my head that my parents had taught me as a child, you know, don’t get in a car with strangers, was going off. I was told to come to a basement of a stranger," Harris explained.

When asked if he ever went to the Vac Shack to visit Fox, he scoffed and said, "oh, absolutely not."

His attorney asked if Fox had ever been to his home. Harris quickly responded, "He is not allowed at my house."

Harris was asked roughly 19 times whether or not he ever conspired to kidnap Governor Whitmer during his direct testimony Thursday. He responded "absolutely not" several times, other times with a drawn out "no".

He was also asked multiple times by his attorney whether or not he ever agreed with other members of the group to try and acquire weapons of mass destruction— he responded "no" each time.

When asked if he ever agreed to blow up the bridge near Governor Whitmer's home, he said "I didn't even know about a bridge. Nobody told me."

Several of the men are charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, in addition to conspiracy to kidnap the governor.

Harris spent significant time speaking about the group's gathering in Cambria, Wisconsin in July 2020.

"Their shoot house construction was extremely dangerous... no one practiced the weapon safety rules that much... It was enough to make my heart stop,” Harris said.

But he went on to say that he helped make the shoot house on-site a bit safer, saying, “I spray painted next to the front door to say safety number 1 and marked do not cross lines… the exterior, for people that wanted to watch, hey don’t cross here… interior, don’t cross here, so you don’t shoot your buddy, and I also spray painted the targets."

Prosecutors have alleged that the group designed and built shoot houses to resemble the interior of Governor Whitmer's home, and a room inside the Lansing State Capitol. This is something the defense has rejected time and time again.

"Did you believe it was a mock-up of the Governor's house," his attorney asked. "No," he reiterated.

"Did you believe it was a mock-up of a room in the Capitol," she followed. "No."

Harris was close with Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks— the only 2 men charged federally in the alleged kidnapping plot who accepted plea deals to cooperate with the government.

He said on the stand Thursday that they would often hang out together, even outside of training events.

Harris said they would enjoy "Fishing, house parties, and dinner."

When asked who he felt was the leader of their group, Harris said it was government informant Dan Chappel.

Assistant US Attorney Jonathon Roth cross-examined Harris for the government.

He asked Harris why he didn't leave the group when certain elements bothered him when Dan Chappel went to law enforcement after being bothered by the group's language used in chat rooms.

Harris said it was because Dan Chappel is a "b___h".

When asked whether or not he thought Governor Whitmer was a "tyrant", Harris said, "not really, to me she was just a Governor."

Roth asked Harris about the several chat messages he sent which appear to be him suggesting ways to harm the governor.

Harris agreed that he had suggested "doming" the Governor in one message, or shooting her in the head.

He also brought up an idea of pretending to be a pizza delivery driver and meeting the Governor at her front door.

Roth accused Harris of keeping notes on how to build explosives, and detonation chords algorithms, in notebooks in an office near his bedroom at his parents' home in Lake Orion.

Harris said the notes were from 2015, during his time in the Marines.

He denied keeping wolverine watchmen schedules and training details in those same notebooks.

Harris called detonating explosives "extremely fun".

The defense began calling their own witnesses Wednesday, including a Wisconsin mother of two who attended a field training exercise in Cambria with her husband and 14-year-old son.

She described the event as a “family fun day” with swimming and barbecue.

The defense is trying to downplay the severity of any exercises conducted in the alleged kidnapping plot.

Attorneys for Barry Croft, Brandon Caserta, Daniel Harris and Adam Fox each say they have not ruled out having their client testify.

Judge Jonker also indicated that if Daniel Harris is going to testify on his own behalf, that decision would need to be made by Thursday. Thursday morning, it was announced that Harris would be taking the stand in his own defense.

Barry Croft, Brandon Caserta and Adam Fox did not testify in their own defense.

Court will resume Friday morning with closing statements.

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