A man described as the leader of a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asked “when’s the lynching?” after the state Supreme Court in 2020 struck down a law that she repeatedly used to impose restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to evidence introduced Monday.
The disclosure came near the end of the first phase of testimony by a key government witness in the trial of four men. A defense attorney then took over the questioning of Dan Chappel, who was challenged about what he said and did during months of covert work for the FBI.
Chappel, an Army veteran who hauls mail, was an informant who secretly recorded hours of conversations and participated in chat groups. He said he also trained to abduct Whitmer, along with the defendants, Adam Fox, Barry Croft Jr., Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta.
Prosecutors say the four were antigovernment extremists who wanted to grab the Democratic governor at her vacation home in northern Michigan in retaliation for a series of sweeping orders during the pandemic.
With Chappel in the witness chair, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler introduced messages written after Whitmer lost a Michigan Supreme Court decision about her powers.
“When’s the lynching?” Fox wrote. “She should be arrested now, immediately. Who wants to roll out?”
The exchange occurred just a few days before the FBI arrested the men as they tried to obtain an explosive to use in a kidnapping.
Fox, Croft, Harris and Caserta are charged with conspiracy. Chappel last week told jurors how two trips were made to Elk Rapids to see Whitmer’s property as well as a nearby bridge that could be blown up to distract police.
Defense lawyers claim informants and agents improperly influenced the four men. Fox’s attorney, Christopher Gibbons, pursued that theme as he cross-examined Chappel on the smallest details.
Chappel acknowledged that he provided paper and pen for Fox to draw a map after a daytime ride to Elk Rapids. He said he paid for lunch at a diner where the map was drawn and provided transportation for the August 2020 trip.
On another subject, Gibbons pointed out that Chappel had proposed firing a gun and mailing the ammunition casing as a threat to Whitmer.
Chappel said he could have been kicked out of the group if he had appeared too soft.
“I want to continue dialogue with him and see where his mindset’s at,” Chappel said of Fox. “I’m not professional law enforcement. I’m just an average guy with somebody who wants to kidnap and kill the governor. I had no playbook. This was all fluid every day.”
Two other men, Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks, pleaded guilty to the scheme and will eventually testify for the government.
Whitmer rarely talks publicly about the case, though she referred to “surprises” over the last few years that seem like “something out of fiction” when she filed for reelection last week.
She has blamed former President Donald Trump for fomenting anger over coronavirus restrictions and refusing to condemn right-wing extremists like those charged in the case. Whitmer has said Trump was complicit in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
White reported from Detroit.