Two men charged with conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2020 were “very eager” to move forward with the plan and expressed no reluctance, a key witness testified Wednesday.
Ty Garbin also downplayed the influence of two FBI informants who trained with the group, saying he couldn’t recall them suggesting that Whitmer should be kidnapped.
“Not that I saw, no,” Garbin told jurors in federal court in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. are on trial for the second time on conspiracy charges. A jury in April couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict but acquitted two other men.
Garbin and Kaleb Franks are important witnesses for the government: They, too, were arrested in October 2020 but pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate.
“They were full in,” Franks testified Wednesday, referring to Fox and Croft and a kidnapping plot. “Every time I spent time with them that’s what they talked about.”
Prosecutors say Fox and Croft wanted to trigger a national revolt. The government said disgust over COVID-19 restrictions inspired them to make kidnapping plans in 2020. Defense lawyers, however, argue that undercover FBI agents and rogue operatives created the scheme.
Garbin and Franks said they trained with Fox, Croft and others in a remote area, practicing inside a handmade “shoot house” to simulate a kidnapping. They told jurors how a group traveled to Elk Rapids at night to see Whitmer’s vacation home and a bridge that could be blown up to distract police during an attack.
“It wasn’t anybody’s idea but my own to participate,” Garbin said when asked if he was entrapped by agents.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler asked if Fox and Croft were reluctant.
“No,” Garbin replied. “Very eager to continue forward with it.”
During a first round of testimony Tuesday, Garbin said he and Fox were at a gun-rights rally at the Michigan Capitol in June 2020, months before their arrest.
“Adam Fox had mentioned storming the Capitol building and arresting elected officials and holding them on trial for their crimes and treason,” Garbin said. “(A) particular elected official would be Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Hang her on public TV for the world to see.”
Garbin’s testimony this week was tighter than in the first trial. Last spring he said kidnapping the Democratic governor could be the “ignition” for civil war and “prevent Joe Biden from winning the presidency.”
But Kessler didn’t ask questions to draw out those answers Tuesday or Wednesday.
Fox, 39, was living in the Grand Rapids area, and Croft, 46, is from Bear, Delaware.
Whitmer has blamed then-President Donald Trump for stoking mistrust and fomenting anger over coronavirus restrictions and refusing to condemn hate groups and right-wing extremists like those charged in the plot.
Trump recently called the kidnapping plan a “fake deal.”