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Federal judge denies defense request to dismiss charges in Whitmer kidnap case

machine gun on the ground with someone's feet standing next to it.
U.S. Attorney's Office

A federal judge has rejected a defense motion to dismiss criminal charges against five men accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The men are part of a group of more than a dozen arrested by federal and state officials in the fall of 2020. Law enforcement officials claim the group had planned and trained to kidnap the governor, as well as takeover the state capitol.

Five men — Adam Fox, Barry Croft Jr., Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta — are facing a variety of charges, including conspiracy.

But in a motion filed last year, defense attorneys claimed the charges against their clients are the result of “egregious overreaching” by the government and its agents.

"The government’s plan was to turn general discontent with Governor Whitmer’s COVID-19 restrictions into a crime,” wrote defense attorney Scott Graham.

In a motion filed last year, the defense asked U.S. District Court Judge Robert Jonker to dismiss the charges against their clients, claiming their clients were entrapped.

But Jonker on Tuesday denied the defense request. In his written order, the federal judge noted that to dismiss the case before trial, the evidence of entrapment needed to be indisputable.

"Defendants have a heavy burden to carry. They must show that the undisputed evidence demonstrates both government inducement and a patently clear absence of predisposition as a matter of law. Defendants fail to carry their burden because the evidence on both issues is decidedly disputed as it almost inevitably is at this stage of the case."

The trial is scheduled to begin March 8.

A sixth defendant, Ty Garbin, pleaded guilty as part of a deal with federal prosecutors.

Other defendants are facing related charges in state courts.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.