NewsThe Retrial: Governor Kidnapping Plot


Defense to cross examine FBI agent Thursday in governor kidnapping plot trial

Chris Gibbons.jpeg
Posted at 12:21 PM, Mar 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-09 12:35:03-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Witness testimony resumes Thursday morning in the case of four men who are accused of planning to kidnap and kill Governor Gretchen Whitmer back in 2020.

FBI Special Agent Todd Reineck will be cross-examined by the defense Thursday morning.

Reineck was the first witness called to testify on Wednesday afternoon.

He testified the initial tip on the alleged plot came from a citizen walk-in tip at their Flint field office.

“An undercover agent, we already know what their motivations are for sure. Whereas in a source, sometimes you know, their motivations may change, it may not,” Reineck testified.

FBI Agent on CHS or confidential human sources (informants): “They can't take independent actions on behalf of the government. They can't commit crimes while they're working.”

The prosecution is trying to show the defendants had ideas about violence towards government officials before the FBI got involved.

Prosecutors also showed Facebook posts from the prior May, where Fox discussed killing Ohio Governor Mike DeWine.

Adam Fox posted a photo of handcuffs on his Facebook page in January 2020, 9-months before the group was arrested, apparently from the basement of the Vac Shack in Grand Rapids, where he was living.

In late May, 2019, Fox in a video message to some co-defendants: "I need to get the f----ts in custody and I will not be able to do it with the full weight of the FBI and all these other motherf----- on this."

Wednesday morning, the trial kicked off with opening statements from the prosecution and defense attorneys. The government has the burden of proof, so they gave their opening statements first.

On Wednesday, the second day of trial for four men accused in a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Federal Judge Robert Jonker urged counsel for all four defendants to move on with their argument that it was the government, not their clients, that concocted the alleged plot and utilize weapons of mass destruction in the process.

Defense attorneys were admonished by Judge Jonker several times during their opening statements for moving away from that argument.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Roth, who gave the prosecution’s opening statement, implored the jury to look at the actions of the defendants, not the words themselves. He discussed how several of the accused men surveilled the governor’s vacation home, tested improvised explosive devices, trained with weapons and communicated using code words.

“These were conspiratorial communications, this is how they planned the kidnapping,” said Roth. “They use code words. Cupcakes were bombs, SpaghettiOs were illegal guns. Ask yourself why they needed code words. Why do they need these code words?”

“These were not people who are all talk,” Roth continued. “These were people who wanted to make sure that all of them are about action. These are people who wanted to separate themselves from the people that were all talk.”

It was an idea Christopher Gibbons, attorney for the accused ringleader, Adam Fox, refuted several times throughout his opening statement.

“There was no plan, there was no conspiracy,” said Gibbons, who called his client a ‘misfit’ and outcast. “Adam Fox talks big. He draws attention to himself. He's trying to be cool.”

The defense of all four men rests on a claim of entrapment, driven by the idea that FBI informants had personal and monetary motivations for convincing the men to commit a higher crime.

“That's why it looks like he was involved because they drove him,” said Julia Kelly, attorney for Daniel Harris.

“It's all part of their tricks,” said Gibbons, who earlier called the FBI’s case ‘parlor tricks.’

Defense attorneys rested much of the blame on an undercover FBI informant named Dan. They claim it was Dan, who was being paid by the FBI, who concocted the kidnapping plot and urged Fox, Harris, and other members of the Wolverine Watchmen militia to purchase explosives and surveil the governor’s vacation home.

All four defendants, Daniel Harris, Adam Fox, Brandon Caserta, and Barry Croft are facing one count each of conspiracy to commit kidnapping. Fox and Harris face one count each of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction for their alleged test run of an IED detonation. Harris and Croft are also charged with possession of an unregistered disruptive device. Harris also faces one count of possession of an unregistered short barreled rifle that he allegedly carried with him to a training.

The burden of proof for an entrapment defense doesn’t rest with the defendants – it rests with the government. It’s federal prosecutors who must prove the defendants would have committed the crime regardless of interjection by federal agents.

Opening statements wrapped up just after noon on Wednesday and witness testimony began.

Follow along with FOX 17 throughout the day as we bring you the latest updates every day of the trial.

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