Militia members accused of plot to kidnap Michigan governor lose bid to dismiss charges over entrapment claims

The men will have to prove they had no inclination toward extremist action if they hope to have the charges dismissed

Graig Graziosi
Wednesday 26 January 2022 13:00

Related video: Gretchen Whitmer hits out at Donald Trump as she denounces kidnap plot

A federal judge has refused to dismiss the indictments against a group of right-wing gang members who allegedly plotted to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

The five men, who are described as "militia members," claimed they were entrapped by federal agents, and asked to have the charges against them dismissed. The men are charged with attempting to kidnap Ms Whitmer. One of the men reportedly said they wanted to hog-tie her and display her in public.

On Tuesday, US District Judge Robert Jonker said that the defense's arguments and claims that the government overreached in its prosecution of the men was a "heavy burden to carry."

The men are scheduled to stand trial in two months, and have been charged with conspiracy to kidnap and weapons of mass destruction charges. If convicted, they could face life in federal prison.

The Detroit News reports that Mr Jonker is requiring the men to show evidence that FBI agents and informants pushed them to commit the crimes with which they are charged. In addition, they have to show a "patently clear absence" of evidence that they had no intention of committing their alleged crimes.

If the judge had agreed to dismiss the charges, it would have effectively dismantled the government's case against the alleged conspirators.

The men's defense lawyers claim that FBI agents capitalised on right-wing anger with Ms Whitmer's Covid-19 restrictions, using the anger to to spur the men into taking extremist actions.

Government agents had infiltrated the group during the planning phase of the kidnapping. The defense will argue that those men ultimately pushed the defendants into action, while prosecutors will argue that the defendants were already inclined toward domestic terrorism.

Attorneys on each side of the trial are fighting over what evidence can be admitted into the trial, including details of the lives of the undercover FBI agents outside of their involvement in the kidnapping plot.

Defense attorneys want to include a private intelligence business owned by one of the FBI agents in the trial, arguing that it undermined the "good faith and integrity of the investigation," according to BuzzFeed. The defendants argued that the agent's side business represents an "apparent conflict of interest."

The defense attorneys have argued that the agent's side business provided him a financial motive to ensure that the five men would carry out the kidnapping plot, claiming he "was attempting to leverage his success in criminal investigations performed for the FBI for his personal profit".

Prosecutors argued against the inclusion of the agent's business in the trial and said they did not plan to call the agent to testify during hearings.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in