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Key informant coming up in Gov. Whitmer kidnap trial

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KTOO Public Media
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KTOO Public Media

Undercover agent, central to prosecutor's case, expected to take stand soon.

Jurors soon will hear from a pivotal informant who approached the FBI about a band of antigovernment extremists, a tip that eventually led to charges in an incredible plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Prosecutors signaled that the informant, known as “Big Dan,” will testify Friday in federal court in Grand Rapids, Michigan, after defense lawyers finish questioning an FBI agent.

Adam Fox, Barry Croft Jr., Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta are charged with conspiracy. Prosecutors say they turned their anger toward government in 2020 into a plot to kidnap Whitmer at her vacation home because of restrictions she imposed during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It won’t be the first time that Dan has testified about his work for the FBI. In 2021, he appeared in state court in a separate but related case involving members of a militia, the Wolverine Watchmen, who are charged with assisting in the scheme.

Wearing a recording device, Dan talked to Fox, who is described as a leader of the plot, “nearly every day” for about four months until the FBI made arrests in October 2020, defense attorney Christopher Gibbons said in a February court filing.

Jurors have so far heard three days of testimony in a trial that could last more than a month. Trial was delayed by three days this week because a participant tested positive for COVID-19.

FBI agent Mark Schweers said Thursday that he fooled Fox and others into believing he was Mark Woods from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula who shared their disgust for government and Whitmer. He, too, wore a recording device, bonded with the men while firing guns and traveled to Elk Rapids to scout the governor’s weekend home.

“We want her flex-cuffed on a table while we all pose and get our pictures taken like we just made the biggest drug bust in ... history,” Fox said of Whitmer, laughing and using profanities.

“You give us that, we’ll be happy,” he said. “Then you lock her ... up, even if we gotta go with her.”

Defense lawyers claim informants and agents improperly influenced the men. Schweers acknowledged that he paid for meals and provided rides for Fox, who promised to make him “warden of the north,” a reference to a “Game of Thrones” character.

Whitmer, a Democrat who is seeking reelection, rarely talks publicly about the case. 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. She has said Trump was complicit in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

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