A federal judge on Tuesday denied bond to three men who were part of a group accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
In a Grand Rapids courtroom, Magistrate Judge Sally Berens decided to keep Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta in custody pending their trials. A ruling on two other men — Adam Fox and Ty Gabin — connected to the alleged plot will happen at a later time, she said.
A sixth man, Barry Croft, is being held in Delaware and was ordered to be extradited to Michigan.
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The ruling came after an hours-long court hearing in which it was revealed that members of anti-government groups also discussed kidnapping Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam during a June meeting in Ohio. FBI agent Richard Trask testified to the alleged plot Tuesday.
Trask was part of the investigation that resulted in the arrest of the six men last week. They are charged with plotting to kidnap Whitmer, a Democrat. Trask did not name Northam, also a Democrat, by name but said members of anti-government groups from various states attended the meeting.
“They discussed possible targets, taking a sitting governor, specifically issues with the governor of Michigan and Virginia based on the lockdown orders,” he testified.
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He said the people at the meeting were unhappy with the governors’ response to the coronavirus pandemic. He did not discuss further planning involving Northam.
The plot against Whitmer stemmed from what the suspects viewed as her “uncontrolled power” during the pandemic in which she enacted lockdown measures similar to other states, authorities allege. She faced heated opposition from Republican state lawmakers and some residents angry about business closures and prohibitions on gatherings.
The state Capitol in Lansing became the site of several protests that featured armed militia members.
Defense attorneys for several of the accused men questioned Trask and suggested that their clients were “big talkers” who didn’t intend to follow through with action.
“You find a lot of people who talk about things, but they’re never a threat to do anything,” Franks’ defense attorney Scott Graham asked the FBI agent. “It’s fairly common in these groups? “Big talk between crackpots — you’ve seen that, haven’t you? People who talk a lot, brashly, boldly, but are never going to do anything about that talk.”
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Berens’ acknowledged that some of the men did not have a leadership role in the alleged plot but cited their participation in discussions.
“It is the plot along the way that is clearly very dangerous,” Berens said. “This is a very, very serious crime.”
Separately, seven others linked to an anti-government group called the Wolverine Watchmen face terrorism charges. They face state charges in connection with allegedly seeking to storm the Michigan Capitol and providing material support for terrorist acts by seeking a “civil war.”
Fox News’ Danielle Wallace as well as The Associated Press contributed to this report.