A recent thwarted plan to take Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer hostage could have been an FBI entrapment, a defense attorney suggested Tuesday for one of six men charged with conspiracy to kidnap.
Scott Graham, who is representing 26-year-old Kaleb Franks, argued in court there was no real plan to capture Whitmer. Instead, he said the accused were merely acting as “militia wannabees” who engaged in “big talk between crackpots,” according to the Detroit Free Press. In other words, Graham said, those charged in a plot to kidnap Whitmer were “people who talk a lot … but are never going to do anything.”
“Have you ever dealt with big talkers?” Graham asked an FBI Special Agent Richard Trask during cross examination. “There’s kind of a military-wanna-be theme that runs between militias.”
Graham specifically asked Trask about his testimony that 13 militia members were planning to steal Whitmer from her vacation home and leave her in the middle of Lake Michigan or try the governor for treason in a nearby state. Trask, the paper reported, said he couldn’t offer a specific answer but that there were audio recordings of the members discussing their plans.
Graham argued in court that it was the FBI’s own informant involved with this group that was actively encouraging the others to engage in illegal activity.
“One of the most active leaders was your informant,” Graham charged.
Gary Springstead, who is representing 24-year-old Ty Garbin, also said the use of an informant raised suspicions that without FBI involvement the “plot” would never have gone anywhere.
“(I)t’s become an issue in certain cases where the informant pushes some of the information, and the court and the government and the defense attorneys have to be leery of that,” Springstead told reporters outside the courthouse. “Because their job is not to assess what the government informant wants them to do, it’s to assess the accused’s intent and what they actually planned on doing.”
Prosecutors pushed back on Graham’s claims, citing the militia members allegedly conducting surveillance on Whitmer’s home three times.
“Have you ever heard of someone casing someone’s house?” the federal prosecutor asked the FBI agent on the stand. Trask testified that the group also considered going after Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.