Second Man To Plead Guilty In Alleged Plot To Kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer

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A second member of an alleged plot to kidnap and hurt Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has agreed to plead guilty and testify for the government at next month’s trial, according to a federal court filing Monday.

Waterford Township resident Kaleb Franks, 27, will plead guilty to kidnapping conspiracy, which is punishable by up to life in federal prison, according to a plea deal filed in court Monday that reveals new details about how accused plotters focused their attention on Michigan’s governor.

Franks was scheduled to stand trial on March 8 in federal court in Grand Rapids alongside four others charged in the kidnapping case. A sixth man, Ty Garbin, pleaded guilty last year and is serving a six-year prison sentence; he is expected to be the government’s star witness.

The deal requires Franks to cooperate with federal investigators and testify at trial.

Prosecutors chart Franks’ growing involvement with members of a group that has focused attention on extremism fueled by opposition to state restrictions imposed by Whitmer during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the plea agreement, Franks will admit to conspiring with four others from June 2020 to October 2020.

Franks connected with members of the Wolverine Watchmen, a Michigan militia, through a Facebook firearms group in spring 2020, was invited to a protest in Lake Orion and met another accused plotter, Daniel Harris, according to the plea deal.

Harris invited him to join the militia’s chat group on the encrypted Wire application, according to the government.

“The defendant understood they were using encrypted communications to conceal discussion of illegal activity from law enforcement,” the plea deal reads.

Defense lawyers have argued there was no kidnapping conspiracy and that undercover FBI agents and informants entrapped the men.

Franks passed a vetting process and started attending meetings and firearms training. In late June 2020, he attended a tactical training in Munith and met Adam Fox of Potterville, one of the accused kidnap plot ringleaders.

During a July meeting in Milford, the accused plotters discussed a proposal to “black bag politicians,” according to the court filing.

“The defendant and Harris thought the plan wouldn’t work at that time, but later changed their minds,” the plea agreement reads. “The group agreed that it remained an ‘open discussion’ as to when exactly it was appropriate to launch aggressive measures against the government.”

Later that month during tactical training in Wisconsin, Franks met a second accused ringleader, truck driver Barry Croft of Delaware, prosecutors wrote in the court filing. Croft brought an assault rifle and projectile launcher to the training session.

“Croft discussed modifying legal projectiles to launch explosive devices,” according to the plea deal. “Croft also brought materials for constructing improvised explosive devices (“IEDs”) using gunpowder and BBs as shrapnel. Croft and Harris assembled two IEDs, which they unsuccessfully attempted to detonate.”