13 Charged in Alleged Plot to Kidnap Michigan Governor

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times based in Maryland. He covers U.S. and world news.
October 8, 2020Updated: October 9, 2020

The FBI broke up a conspiracy to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, federal and state authorities said.

U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Andrew Birge told reporters on Oct. 8 that the six men who were arrested and charged “conspired to kidnap the governor from her vacation home in the Western District of Michigan before the November election.”

FBI special agent Richard Trask II wrote in an affidavit that agents became aware early this year that a group of people were discussing violently overthrowing certain government and law enforcement components. The group included Ty Garbin, 24, Adam Fox, 37, and Barry Croft, 44, residents of Michigan and Delaware, respectively.

Fox and Croft connected online and agreed to join forces to unite in violent action against multiple state governments they thought were violating the U.S. Constitution, according to the affidavit.

The men and approximately 13 others gathered in Dublin, Ohio, on June 6 for a meeting. A confidential human source, or a spy for the FBI, was present.

The group allegedly discussed creating a new society and ways to bring it forth, some peaceful and some not.

“At one point, several members talked about state governments they believed were violating the U.S. Constitution, including the government of Michigan and Governor Gretchen Whitmer,” Trask II wrote. Several members discussed “murdering ‘tyrants’ or ‘taking’ a sitting governor.”

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(From top left clockwise) Adam Fox, Daniel Harris, Kaleb Franks, and Ty Garbin in booking photos. (Kent County Jail)
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Brandon Caserta in a mugshot. (Kent County Jail)

Deciding they needed more personnel, Fox reached out to a Michigan militia group that was already known to the FBI because they were trying to get addresses of local law enforcement officers. At the time, a member of the militia group interviewed by the FBI expressed concern about the group’s plans and agreed to become a spy.

Fox, coordinating with Croft, met with members of the group during the month of June. During a June 18 meeting, according to audio recorded by the second human informant, Fox told Garbin and the spy that he planned to attack the state Capitol in Lansing and wanted help from the militia.

During a phone call four days prior, Fox said he needed 200 men to storm the Capitol and take hostages, including Whitmer. Fox said they would try her for treason and planned to execute her before the Nov. 3 elections.

Later that month, Fox and his girlfriend, and two other men who were charged in the plot—Kaleb Franks, 26, and Brandon Caserta, 32, both of Michigan—along with the human informant, attended a training exercise in Munith, Michigan, at the home of a militia member.

Franks left after the training. Other people were told to leave if they weren’t willing to participate in attacks against the government and in kidnapping politicians. They didn’t leave.

Other trainings took place, which included discussions of how to execute violence against the government and politicians. The plan later changed to target Whitmer’s summer residence, with Fox describing it as a “Snatch and grab, man.” Individuals conducted surveillance of the vacation home and looked at areas where they could set an explosive along the way.

They planned to take her to a secure location in Wisconsin for the “trial.”

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Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel speaks during a news conference in Lansing, Mich., on March 5, 2020. (David Eggert/AP Photo)

Multiple search warrants were executed as part of the probe into the plot, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel told reporters at an Oct. 8 press conference.

“Our efforts uncovered elaborate plans to endanger the lives of law enforcement officers, government officials, and the broader public,” she said.

The other man charged was identified as Daniel Harris, 23, of Michigan.

Attorneys for the men weren’t listed on a federal court database. The six face up to life in prison if convicted.

In one video posted online, Caserta speaks to the camera in an anarchist flag on the wall behind him.

In the video, he called on people to stop supporting government officials. In another video in front of an anarchist flag, he says he sees the Declaration of Independence as “an anarchist document.” He also said he isn’t a supporter of Republican President Donald Trump.

Facebook pages for Franks reportedly showed that he liked Turning Point USA, a conservative group that is strongly supportive of Trump.

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A broken out front window with a tarp covering the inside is seen at a home after being searched by FBI agents for alleged plots to kidnap the Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer hostage and attack the state capitol building, in Hartland, Mich., Oct. 8, 2020. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

Brian Titus, a friend of Fox, told MLive.com that he recently offered him a job and a place to stay. He said Fox talked about being in a militia.

“This is insane,” Titus said. “Who would plan something like that unless you’re not in the right mind?”

“I knew he belong[ed] to the militia but I didn’t know it was this deep. He kept it pretty quiet,” Titus added to WOOD-TV. “He was anti-police, anti-government. He was afraid if he didn’t stand up for the Second Amendment and his rights that the country is going to go communism and socialism.”

Another seven individuals linked to the militia group, Wolverine Watchmen, face state terrorism charges, Nessel announced.

They were identified as Paul Bellar, 21; Shawn Fix, 38; Eric Molitor, 36; Michael Null, 38; William Null, 38; Pete Musico, 42; and Joseph Morrison, 42. They all face at least 20 years in prison if convicted. Musico and Morrison face up to 40 years.

The Nulls and Molitor were arraigned on Oct. 8. Their bonds were set at $250,000. Musico and Morrison were scheduled to be arraigned on Oct. 8. Fix is in custody and his arraignment was pending.

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A militia group with no political affiliation from Michigan, including Pete Musico (R) who was charged Oct. 8, 2020 for his involvement in a plot to kidnap the Michigan governor, attack the state capitol building and incite violence, stands in front of the Governors office after protesters occupied the state capitol building during a vote to approve the extension of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order due to the COVID-19 outbreak, at the state capitol in Lansing, Mich., April 30, 2020. (Seth Herald/Reuters)

According to affidavits by state detectives, Wolverine Watchmen is an anti-government, anti-law enforcement militia group.

Contact information for the group couldn’t be found. A spokesman for a different organization, Michigan Militia Corps, Wolverines, MMCW—named by some media outlets as Wolverine Watchmen—told The Epoch Times via email that it “does NOT and has never had any affiliation with the Wolverine Watchmen or any of it’s members.”

“We do NOT advocate any of the alleged actions in which they have been accused. Although these Watchmen have also adopted the wolverine as their mascot, they have NO connection to MMCW,” the spokesman said.

Wolverine Watchmen has recruited members using Facebook since November 2019, detectives said.

Morrison and Musico founded the group.

Morrison is known online as “Boogaloo Bunyan.” The so-called Boogaloo Bois is a loose anti-government movement that has been implicated in several plots to carry out violence this year.

Attorney General William Barr said in an interview last month that most of the violence seen in U.S. cities this year came from extreme leftwing criminals.

“They are by and large extreme leftwing Marxist people who want to bring down and tear down the current system. There are also some I would say pure anarchists who don’t necessarily want to build a Marxist system—it’s not clear what they want to build—but they definitely want to tear down the system. That group is sometimes referred to as Boogaloo, or similar types of groups. But they are fewer, from my knowledge, fewer and far between compared to the sort of Antifa type groups,” he said, mentioning the far-left Antifa.

Boogaloo is described by some experts as far-right, but Barr pushed back on that description.

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(From left to right) Eric Molitor, William Null, and Michael Null in booking photographs. (Antrim County Sheriff via AP)

“Boogaloo is not radical right. And that’s one of the misconceptions that’s being essentially perpetuated by the media,” he said. “They are people who believe that the system, the current system, has to be torn down and completely replaced. People join it for different reasons, some have different visions of what the future should look like, but they’re all in agreement, it should be torn down. They’re anarchists.”

Whitmer, at a separate press conference, thanked law enforcement for disrupting the alleged plot.

She said she hoped the charges would lead to convictions, “bringing these sick and depraved men to justice.”

State Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, a Republican, wrote on Twitter that “a threat against our Governor is a threat against us all.”

“We condemn those who plotted against her and our government. They are not patriots. There is no honor in their actions,” he wrote. “They are criminals and traitors, and they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Correction: A previous version of this story described the wrong website for Wolverine Watchmen. The Epoch Times regrets the error.