GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Kaleb Franks returns to the witness stand on day 10 of the trial for four men accused of plotting to kidnap and kill Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Franks admits, at one time, he gave an undercover informant credit for fueling the ambitions of the group's leader, Adam Fox.
Adam Fox's attorney Chris Gibbbons began, speaking to Franks about the initial interview he gave with agents after the group's October 2020 arrest.
Franks apparently told investigators at the time that Dan Chappel "fueled Adam [Fox]'s fire".
This is important because Chappel was an undercover informant for the government, being called the "backbone of their case" by the defense.
Franks said on the stand that he was being dishonest when he told them that, as he was "scared" and wanted to avoid time behind bars.
But the government has called Adam Fox and Barry Croft the leaders and architects of the alleged plan to kidnap and kill Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
If Dan Chappel was truly pushing the so-called "leaders" to plan and act, it could go a long way in convincing jurors that the men were truly entrapped.
Chappel was also the man who drove several of the group members out to Ypsilanti back in October 2020 where they ended up being arrested.
The government has alleged that the men were taking that trip to meet a man they knew as "Red", to give him a down payment for explosives they planned to use to take out a bridge near Governor Whitmer's Elk Rapids home.
Franks admitted on the stand Friday though that he had "no idea" that was the intention of their trip. Franks said he believed they were on the trip to get "free gear" from Red, and then drink beer at Buffalo Wild Wings.
Franks also told investigators that Fox was a LARPer (Live Action Role Player), and liked "make believe".
Several defense attorneys asked Franks about his motives for testifying on behalf of the government.
Chris Gibbons asked if Franks hoped to receive a reduced sentence for his role in the alleged plot because of his testimony.
"I would like that, but there is no guarantee. I wasn’t promised anything. It's completely up to them,” Franks explained.
Franks was only promised that the government would "consider" filing what's called a 5K motion after his testimony— essentially asking the court to reduce his potential sentence because he provided "substantial assistance" to the government.
As part of his plea agreement, the government did agree not to charge Franks with additional counts of using weapons of mass destruction, destructive devices, or selling guns to felons.
They also agreed not to use any of Franks' words against him during his sentencing.
Joshua Blanchard, Barry Croft's attorney, asked Franks about his previous drug use.
Franks admitted that he was a heroin user. Franks testified Thursday that he has worked as a substance abuse counselor since 2016.
Blanchard asked Franks about his drug use behind bars, since his October 2020 arrest. Franks claimed he has only used drugs once since then— a single dose of Suboxone, that was given to him by another inmate.
Suboxone is a drug typically given to heroin users in recovery, it works to block opioid receptors, and help starve off withdrawal symptoms.
People with a low opioid tolerance may experience a "high" using the drug.
Franks testified that law enforcement became aware of his use because he told them about it. Claiming he admitted to using the drug because, "it was the right thing to do."
Franks said on the stand that he caan "absolutely" still get in trouble for his drug use, despite his testimony in this case.
He made a shocking confession in court on Thursday, saying the only reason he wanted to be part of the plot was to "be killed in the process." Franks said, "I didn't want to live. I thought it was a very risky choice…and getting in a shootout with police, in my opinion, you'd be bound to die.”
He explained that his mom, stepdad, and stepbrother had all died just prior to summer 2020.
When prosecutors got back up to question Franks again on Friday afternoon, they asked him how his head space has changed since then.
"I no longer want to end my life, and given the publicity of the crime, I've had to discuss this with family members, and I've received some support, some help," Franks told assistant US attorney Jonathan Roth.
Prosecutors also played a recording of a phone call made by Kaleb Franks to his girlfriend shortly after being arrested.
"I told them [investigators] that Adam was the ringleader," she says in the recording.
"Yeah, that's true," Franks responded.
At the time of the call, Franks had not yet retained a lawyer, and was not yet cooperating with the government.
Franks is one of two key witnesses in the Governor Gretchen Whitmer kidnapping plot trial who took the stand Thursday, and the court heard some shocking new testimony.
Both of the men were originally charged in the case but made plea deals with the government and turned on the rest of the defendants.
Ty Garbin took the stand once again Thursday morning. It was his second day testifying, this time being cross-examined by the defense.
Defense attorneys reminded the jury that Garbin is getting a drastically reduced sentence for testifying. He’s serving just six years on a kidnapping conspiracy charge, which could land any other person a life sentence.
One attorney, who called Garbin a “snitch,” noted that Garbin could stand to shed even more time off his sentence if his testimony goes well.
This has defense attorneys worried the witnesses are sweetening up their stories for less time behind bars.
After the defense finished cross-examining Garbin, we finally heard from Kaleb Franks, another man who admitted he was once a member of the group.
Unlike Garbin though, Franks has yet to be sentenced for his role in the alleged plot but does say he hopes his cooperation gets his sentence reduced.
The prosecution estimates they could rest their case as soon as the end of next week but there are still several more witnesses to get through.
Undercover FBI agent known to the group only as "Red" is also expected to be called as a government witness at some point next week.
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