Six men were charged Thursday with conspiring to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in an alleged plot by right-wing extremists who were angry over her coronavirus containment policies.
A federal grand jury levied a conspiracy indictment against Michigan residents Adam Fox, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Michael-Ray Caserta, and Barry Croft Jr. of Delaware.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge said in a statement the charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
The suspects were arrested in October after an FBI probe into alleged plans to kidnap Whitmer at her vacation home in northern Michigan.
Defense attorneys have argued their clients were “big talkers” who did not plan to carry out the alleged plot against the Democratic governor, according to the indictment.
During a court hearing in October, FBI Special Agent Richard Trask testified the six men were involved with paramilitary organizations, the indictment stated.
Trask also said Virginia Democratic Governor Ralph Northam was among those mentioned as potential targets during a June meeting in Dublin, Ohio, that was attended by Croft and Fox, the indictment said.
The indictment also said Fox and Garbin, a leader of a Michigan group called the “Wolverine Watchmen,” agreed in the Michigan city of Grand Rapids to collaborate on achieving “common goals.”
In addition to describing plans to surveil Whitmer’s home and tactics for fighting her security detail, the indictment said they discussed destroying a bridge near Whitmer’s house to prevent law enforcement from responding.
The indictment said Caserta wrote in an electronic message that if the men encountered police during a scouting mission, “they should give the officers one opportunity to leave and kill them if they did not comply.”
The suspects were arrested after four members scheduled an October 7 meeting in Ypsilanti, Michigan, to meet an undercover FBI agent and purchase explosives and other supplies, according to the indictment.