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FBI: Suspects in kidnapping plot against Whitmer wanted to leave her in a boat on Lake Michigan

judges gavel

A federal judge in Grand Rapids has ordered three of the men charged in an alleged terrorist plot to be held without bond.

Two other men face hearings later in the week.

Federal prosecutors laid out extensive evidence in court Tuesday against the five men charged in a plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer. A total of 13 men face charges in the case.

At a hearing in Grand Rapids Tuesday, assitant U.S. prosecutor Nils Kessler showed pictures, videos and screenshots of text conversations among the five men.

The government says by this September there were two confidential informants and two undercover agents tracking the plot.

In addition to talking about kidnapping Whitmer, the men also discussed possibly kidnapping Virginia’s Governor in one early version of the plan.

As they narrowed in on Whitmer, and trained for kidnapping her at her vacation home in Northern Michigan, prosecutors say one of the men told them his plan was to put her in a boat, drive her far out into Lake Michigan and just leave her.

Gary Springstead is an attorney for defendant Ty Garbin. He says the government will have to prove the men were taking real actions to further the plot, not just engaging in constitutionally-protected free speech.

“It’s a serious case, serious allegations," Springstead said. "But also, there’s been lots of cases where serious allegations don’t bear out in the proofs in court.”

Springstead was referencing a case from 2012 involving members of the Michigan-based Hutaree militia, which ended with just two men pleading guilty to weapons charges.

The five men are among 13 total who’ve been charged in the alleged terrorist plot. Preliminary exams for the other defendants will continue Friday. A bond hearing for all five defendants is also scheduled for that day.

This is a developing story and was last updated on Oct. 13, 2020 at 4:28 p.m.

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Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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