Second militia member pleads guilty in plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in plea deal: Wolverine Watchmen adherent will testify group was NOT set up by FBI despite suspects' previous entrapment claims

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The second member of an alleged plot to kidnap and hurt Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer will plead guilty to kidnapping conspiracy next weekKaleb Franks of Waterford Township, about 40 miles from Detroit, was one of six men who hatched the plot in October of 2020  - now, he could face life in prisonThe men, part of far-right Wolverine Watchmen militia group, were enraged COVID-19 lockdowns, and allegedly planned to take her from her vacation home One of six men arrested for the kidnapping, Ty Garbin, 25, is serving six years in jail after agreeing to testify against the other members of the militiaThe other men -  Adam Fox, 40, Barry Croft, 44, Daniel Harris, 24 and Brandon Caserta, 33, have insisted that they were pushed to action by FBI informants 'Dan' who infiltrated the group, paid for gas, food and lodging for militia-style weekend training, according to an earlier court filing by the group's lawyersBut in his plea deal, Franks testifies that he was 'not entrapped or induced to commit any crimes by these individuals' and neither were the other men

The second member of the far-right Wolverine Watchmen militia group has agreed to plead guilty, and will testify against four co-conspirators who plotted to kidnap and harm Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in the fall of 2020. 

Kaleb Franks, 27, of Waterford Township, about 40 miles from Detroit, is scheduled  on Wednesday to plead guilty to kidnapping conspiracy in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids. The charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. 

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Franks was one of six Wolverine Watchmen members arrested on October 8, 2020 for allegedly hatching the plot to snatch Whitmer because they were upset with Michigan’s COVID-19 restrictions.  

Others include Adam Fox of Potterville, 40 – the alleged ringleader – truck driver Barry Croft of Bear, Delaware, 44; Daniel Harris of Lake Orion, 24; Brandon Caserta of Canton, 33; and Ty Gerard Garbin of Hartland Township, 25.

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Garbin was the first of the men to plead guilty to the plot in January of 2021, and has since been the ‘star witness’ in the trial against the holdout members of the group, which is scheduled to begin on March 8. All six remain in custody. 

 ‘The pressure is really on the defendants. Most likely, this is their last chance to see what the best deal is before trial,’ Detroit defense attorney Michael Bullotta, a former federal prosecutor, told the Detroit Free Press. 

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‘Deals generally get worse, not better, the longer you wait.’

Kaleb Franks, 27, of Waterford Township,pictured with an assault weapon outfitted with a silencer, is scheduled on Wednesday to plead guilty to kidnapping conspiracy in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids

Kaleb Franks, 27, of Waterford Township,pictured with an assault weapon outfitted with a silencer, is scheduled on Wednesday to plead guilty to kidnapping conspiracy in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids

Franks (top left); accused ringleader Adam Fox, 40 (top right); Barry Croft, 44 (bottom center); Daniel Harris, 24 (top right); Brandon Caserta, 33 (top center); and Ty Gerard Garbin (bottom right), 25, were arrested on October 8, 2020 after allegedly hatched the plot to snatch Whitmer because they were upset with Michigan's COVID-19 restrictions

Franks (top left); accused ringleader Adam Fox, 40 (top right); Barry Croft, 44 (bottom center); Daniel Harris, 24 (top right); Brandon Caserta, 33 (top center); and Ty Gerard Garbin (bottom right), 25, were arrested on October 8, 2020 after allegedly hatched the plot to snatch Whitmer because they were upset with Michigan’s COVID-19 restrictions

The six members of the 'Wolverine Watchmen,' a self-styled far-right militia, were arrested on  October 30 for their alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, pictured on September 15, 2021

The six members of the ‘Wolverine Watchmen,’ a self-styled far-right militia, were arrested on  October 30 for their alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, pictured on September 15, 2021

U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker determined that jurors be told about Franks’ previous conviction for second-degree home invasion, although it has since been expunged from his record, according to the Detroit Free Press.  

At a bond hearing for Franks in October of 2020, Magistrate Judge Salley Bergen said that the now-27-year-old was a ‘danger to the community’ and was allegedly heard by FBI informants saying he was ‘in for anything’ as long as it was well-planned. He was denied bond. 

Franks’ attorney, Scott Graham, said at the hearing that Franks was a former addict who turned his life around after he went to jail for a period of months between 2013 and 2014. Before his arrest, he was a peer advocate in Pontiac, where he advised probationers. 

Graham also argued that Franks had diabetes, and worried he would contract COVID-19 in jail. 

In a 2016 Instagram post, Franks posted a picture of an AR-15 type gun with the caption ‘Nothing relives [sic] stress like blowing stuff up with this beast @swagaholicsanonymous #AR-15.’

Prosecutors asked for permission to tell jurors of the other defendants’ previous crimes. 

In a 19-page plea agreement filed Monday and obtained by DailyMail.com, Franks said that neither he nor his co-defendants had been set up by the FBI, despite multiple requests by his lawyer to advance his entrapment defense. 

Previously, the group’s attorneys claimed in their December 25 filing that if it weren’t for twelve FBI informants embedded with the group, two who were known only as ‘Dan’ and ‘Steve’  in court documents, who encouraged the plot and promised to fund it through a charity organization, the men would never have done it on their own.

‘The government initiated this case, despite the fact that it knew there was no plan to kidnap, no operational plan, and no details about how a kidnapping would occur or what would happen afterward,’ Graham wrote in his 20-page motion. 

Five of the six men accused of plotting to kidnap Governor Whitmer are pictured in a court sketch from October 13, 2020

Five of the six men accused of plotting to kidnap Governor Whitmer are pictured in a court sketch from October 13, 2020

‘Three months after the government proposed kidnapping, and two months after the defendants’ strident repudiation of the idea, and a month after the defendants’ reiteration of their repudiation, the government’s agents continued to push to shape a kidnapping plan, even trying to elevate it to murder,’ the document read. 

‘With regard to ‘inducement’ and ‘persuasion,’ the government’s emotional manipulation abounded. Its approach was persistent and emotional from the outset. Agents and informants used ties related to friendship, being role models, and acting as father figures to develop trust and reliance in the defendants.’

But in the plea agreement, Franks not only testified that he ‘knowingly and voluntarily joined that agreement’ to kidnap Whitmer, and that he ‘understands the crime,’ but that his co-conspirators weren’t manipulated into the plan, either.   

‘[Franks] was not entrapped or induced to commit any crimes by these individuals. [He] also knows [his co-defendants] were not entrapped, based on personal observation and discussions,’ the plea deal states.

Franks ‘frequently heard Fox and Croft initiate conversations about fighting government authority and kidnapping the governor without prompting,’ and heard ‘Harris and Caserta express similar anti-government sentiments during his private discussions with then, when no government informant was present.’

‘During all their months of training together, [Franks] never heard Fox, Corft, Harris or Caserta say they were doing anything because… Dan… Steve or any other informant had advocated it, the plea deal states. 

The group allegedly built a 'mock-up' of Governor Whitmer's vacation home (pictured), called the 'shoot house,' and used it to practice breaching the residence

The group allegedly built a ‘mock-up’ of Governor Whitmer’s vacation home (pictured), called the ‘shoot house,’ and used it to practice breaching the residence

But in a December 25 court filing, attorneys for group argued that the Wolverine Watchmen members didn’t have the finances to carry out the kidnapping, and that ‘when the government was faced with evidence showing that the defendants had no interest in a kidnapping plot, it refused to accept failure and continued to push its plan.’   

The attorneys wrote that FBI informant ‘Dan’ egged them on to carry out the plot. 

‘Dan, while often claiming poverty, always had the resources to drive, feed, and house others whom he hoped to pull into the government plan,’ according to court records. 

 Dan apparently not only drove the accused plotters to militia-style training weekends in Wisconsin and Michigan, he paid for gas, tolls, meals and lodging. 

‘So while the defendants had no interest in profit, a factor weighing in their favor here,’ according to the motion to dismiss the case. ‘The government’s exploitation of its virtually unlimited resources, poured into its investigation, further underscores entrapment as a matter of law.’

Dan, on the other hand, made $50,000 for his work ratting out the men, according to the defense team.   

In October of 2021, the US Attorney's Office released video and text messages which prosecutors say is evidence in their case against the six men who face federal conspiracy to kidnap charges against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

In October of 2021, the US Attorney’s Office released video and text messages which prosecutors say is evidence in their case against the six men who face federal conspiracy to kidnap charges against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Men were seen carrying out supposed tactical training exercise

Men were seen carrying out supposed tactical training exercise


Further complicating prosecutors case was the arrest of the lead FBI investigator on the case Richard Trask, 39, who was convicted of a misdemeanor after hitting his wife after they returned from a swingers party one night, according to The Detroit News.       

The plea deal offers a more detailed picture of the months leading to the men’s arrest. 

In the spring of 2020, Franks met members of the Wolverine Watchmen through a local firearms group on Facebook. He met unspecified members in person at an unspecified protest in Lake Orion, where they showed him how to download encrypted messaging app Wire so that he could join the self-styled militia’s chat group.  

Franks went by the name ‘Red Hot’ in the encrypted chats. 

After passing the group’s ‘vetting’ process, Franks began attending the group’s meetings. On June 28, according to the document, the six men met for ‘tactical training’ in Munith Michigan, where Franks met accused ringleader Fox, known derisively as ‘Captain Autism’ by the group, for the first time. 

Then on July 7, Franks met Caserta, Harris, Garbin and other members of the group who were not named. A crib sheet of code words to conceal illegal activities, weapons and tactics was passed out in-person.  

At that meeting, plans to ‘black bag’ politicians were discussed. Initially,  Franks and Harris didn’t think that it would be possible, according to the plea agreement, but later changed their minds. 

The group allegedly agreed to maintain an ‘open discussion’ about when ‘exactly it was appropriate to launch aggressive measures against the government.’

Three days later, Franks allegedly joined Caserta, Harris and Garbin on a trip through Chicago to Cambria, Wisconsin for a ‘field training exercise.’ 

On the trip, according to the plea agreement, the group discussed how they would proceed if they were pulled over with their illegal weapons in the car. Franks recalled that Harris told them ‘you’re all in the car with an illegal SBR,’ referring to his short-barreled rifle. 

The men met up with Fox in Cambria, and Franks met Croft for the first time. They ‘trained’ on July 11th and July 12th, the agreement states. 

Allegedly, Croft brought along bomb-making materials and a ‘300 blackout’  AR-15-style semiautomatic assault rifle with a short barrel, a silencer and a 37-millimeter projectile launcher. 

Using gunpowder and BB’s as shrapnel, Croft and Harris unsuccessfully attempted to make two IED’s, neither of which detonated, according to the plea. 

At a meeting in Peebles, Ohio on July 18, Croft allegedly said that the group ‘needed to do something,’ and proposed planting explosives at Michigan State Police posts. 

Fox proposed storming the state Capitol with 200 men wielding snipers and machine guns, according to court documents, but Franks and Garbin felt the idea wasn’t feasible. 

Then, Fox allegedly proposed kidnapping Governor Whitmer, waiting until the results of the presidential election, when ‘law enforcement resources would be spread thin responding to civil unrest.’

Fox, the suspected ringleader, allegedly planned to storm the state Capitol and execute other politicians on live television

Fox, the suspected ringleader, allegedly planned to storm the state Capitol and execute other politicians on live television

On July 23rd, Harris and Garbin told other members of the Wolverine Watchmen about Fox’s decision to storm the capitol, according to documents – the rest of the group didn’t bite. Then, they allegedly said they had an ‘another plan,’ and members who weren’t ‘down’ for participating should leave the Lake Orion meeting. 

‘[Franks], Harris and Garbin knew the “other plan was to kidnap the Governor. [Franks] knowingly and voluntarily joined that plan,’ reads the document.

But on August 23, the group reportedly feared they had been infiltrated. Members were asked to bring proof of their identities, and the group began using a new encrypted chat application that would allow them to delete their messages after they had been sent. 

Six days later, Fox allegedly scoped out Governor Whitmer’s vacation home in Western Michigan, posting pictures in the group’s chat. The group would go on to case the home one more time. 

Between September 12 and 13, Franks recalled building a firing range out of hundreds of used tires with another member of the Wolverine Watchmen on a property near Luther. The group allegedly built a ‘mock-up’ of Governor Whitmer’s vacation home, called the ‘shoot house,’ and used it to practice breaching the residence. 

The men further discussed the particulars of their plan on September 12, and traveled in three cars to Governor Whitmer’s property, court documents said. Harris and Caserta were allegedly left behind because they had been drinking.  

Fox allegedly brought along a semi-automatic pistol, and changed into street clothing out of his tactical gear to look less conspicuous. 

 On the way to the Governor’s house, the men stopped at a hotel in Big Rapids, where one of the men had rented a room. As they left the parking lot of the hotel, Franks recalled Croft saying that he was ‘going to get eyes on the bridge.’

The group planned to blow up a bridge near Whitmer’s home, according to prosecutors, to slow down the response of law enforcement. 

 In a Walmart parking lot, Franks recalled getting into a car with Garbin and an unnamed driver from Wisconsin, who was given the Governor’s address by Fox. The three vehicles then stopped at a VFW post in a town near the governor’s home to has out their plan a final time. 

Franks’ group was to find Whitmer’s home. A second group, which included Fox, would signal the first with lights from a boat ramp on the opposite shore of a nearby lake, and a third group would drive around to make sure that no one was following the militia, court documents alleged. 

The group scoped out Governor Gretchen Whitmer's (pictured) vacation home twice during their planning period between June and October of 2020

The group scoped out Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s (pictured) vacation home twice during their planning period between June and October of 2020

Franks’ group struggled to find Whitmer’s house, he recalled – they later learned that Fox has reversed digits in its street address, the document said. In a heated exchange, Franks recalled telling Fox that he should have been in the vehicle of men searching for the Governor’s vacation home, since he had been there during the day. 

After they finally found the house, the men returned to Garbin’s home that they used as a training site in Luther. The group debriefed those who had not gone on the reconnaissance mission about their findings the next morning. 

Fox allegedly asked the group to pool together $4,000 to purchase explosives, saying that he and another member of the group had narrowed down the ideal spot to place them on the bridge near Whitmer’s home. 

Croft allegedly suggested using IEDs to take out vehicles in Whitmer’s security detail so that blowing up the bridge wasn’t necessary, or using the 37-millimeter projectile launcher on his assault rifle to ambush them.

 Later that day, according to court documents, Croft produced the largest explosive device he had created thus far to the group and several human silhouette targets. 

Franks recalled that Croft wanted to detonate the explosive and see what kind of ‘damage’ the shrapnel would cause. He saw Caserta, Harris and Croft walk off Garbin’s property with the bomb, and heard it explode. 

In a 2016 Instagram post, Franks posted a picture of an AR-15 type gun with the caption 'Nothing relives [sic] stress like blowing stuff up with this beast @swagaholicsanonymous #AR-15'

 In a 2016 Instagram post, Franks posted a picture of an AR-15 type gun with the caption ‘Nothing relives [sic] stress like blowing stuff up with this beast @swagaholicsanonymous #AR-15’

Fox allegedly told the group that they needed to be ‘opportunistic’ and prepared for when the asset arrived,’ and that they would need to do more ‘recon’ before they kidnapped the governor. 

But on October 30, at a warehouse in Ypsilanti, the men were all arrested by the FBI. According to prosecutors, the men thought they were going to make a down payment on more explosives. 

After his arrest, according to the plea agreement, Franks realized that ‘Dan’ and ‘Steve’ had been paid FBI informants – but they never made him or his cohorts do or say anything, he stated in the plea agreement.  

One section of the agreement appears to be aimed at proving that the men were predisposed to carry out their alleged plans, which would be needed to secure convictions for the co-defendants. 

‘The defendant also heard Harris and Caserta express similar antigovernment sentiments during his private discussions with them, when no government informant was present,’ the plea deal reads.  

‘During all their months of training together, [Franks] never heard Fox, Croft, Harris or Caserta say they were doing anything because Dan, Steve or any other informant had advocated it,’ read the agreement. 

 Franks agreed to ‘fully cooperate with the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s office, the Michigan Attorney General’s office’ and other investigating agencies. 

Although entering a plea agreement generally leads to a lighter sentence, as it did with Garbin, no specifics of Franks’ sentence were detailed in the agreement.

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