NewsThe Retrial: Governor Kidnapping Plot


The last thing on the agenda before Whitmer kidnapping plot trial begins: witnesses

The trial begins Tuesday, and attorneys are shoring up their witness lists ahead of testimony
Whitmer plot
Posted at 4:42 PM, Mar 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-01 18:25:30-05

WXMI — As four men federally charged in the alleged plot to kidnap Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer prepare to face a jury, there have been some shake-ups in the witness pool just days before the trial commences.

According to court documents filed on February 17th, 2022, federal judge Robert Jonker rejected the proposed testimony of Eric Dorenbush, an expert in militia and military-style training. Defendant Brandon Caserta had requested Dorenbush be called as a witness “to opine that the training and techniques used in [the defendants’] training videos are not necessarily offensive in nature, and that individuals like himself charge money to train civilians in military tactics,” according to those court documents. Caserta and the other suspects charged federally were allegedly shown in widely seen videos, using live ammunition to conduct training exercises.

Dorenbush was rejected partially because he was submitted to the witness list late.

Jonker will allow the testimony of Patrick Buckley, a former FBI agent, to testify about the agency’s best practices. Buckley is a witness put forth by defendant Adam Fox to, according to those same court documents, “opine that when an investigation involves multiple confidential human sources, it is preferable that they not be aware of each other’s identities.”

The entrapment defense is crucial to the suspect’s case, and there’s been recent debate over whether to allow the undercover FBI agents who corresponded with the suspects to testify. Buckley could be crucial insight into the workings of undercover agents, and whether they may have overstepped their boundaries working with the defendants.

Still yet to be decided on is the testimony of Amy Cooter, a professor of sociology and an expert on extremism at Vanderbilt University. As first reported by MLive, Jonker claimed he didn’t want the trial to turn into a “referendum on whether the trucking convoy in Ottawa is good or bad, or whether what happened on Jan. 6 is an insurrection or legitimate political discourse,” MLive reports he said during a pre-trial hearing on February 18th of this year. “I want the focus to be on what happened in this case.”

Attorneys for the defendants did not respond to FOX17’s requests Tuesday for comment on Cooter’s testimony.

“Hard to know what a judge is thinking, but it may be just trying to give some boundaries for both the prosecution and the defense on where they could go – clearly might have more of an impact on the prosecution side,” said Javed Ali, an extremism expert and associate professor at the University of Michigan. “Maybe it’s just more guidance to the prosecution to stay in that lane than trying to open it up to a broader conversation and pulling in things like January 6th.”

The trial is expected to include several dozen witnesses and the examination of over 400 entries of evidence. It will take over a month and will begin Tuesday with the selection of a jury.