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Michigan, Wisconsin men denied bond in Whitmer kidnap cases

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

A federal judge overseeing the case of a Waterford man charged in a plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declined an appeal Thursday to set bail as his case proceeds. 

And in Wisconsin state court on Thursday another alleged plotter was denied bond as the government readies its case to extradite the man to Michigan.

Federal judge: Release of Kaleb Franks 'unsafe'

Kaleb Franks, whose friends call him "Red Hot," had been denied bond at his arraignment weeks ago.

October:Accused Whitmer kidnapper seeks get-out-of-jail card

Judge Robert Jonker of the Western District of Michigan denied the appeal Thursday in a six-page ruling.

Jonker said "neither oral argument nor a further evidentiary hearing (are) necessary to decide the appeal," and that "detention is appropriate and finds the Magistrate Judge’s decision factually sound and legally correct."

Kaleb Franks

Jonker argued that the magistrate's "detailed" ruling "carefully considered the statutory factors."

While the magistrate did not see a risk of flight in the Franks case, Jonker said she "properly focused on safety to other persons and the community," and that pretrial detention made sense for public safety reasons.

Jonker wrote:

Franks participated in multiple discussions of a plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer; participated in multiple tactical training exercises with other alleged co-conspirators during the same time period...tested IEDs during one of the training exercises; stated affirmatively in connection with discussions of kidnapping Gov. Whitmer that "I’m in for anything as long as it’s well-planned"... participated in nighttime surveillance of the Governor’s vacation home...and traveled to meet what turned out to be an undercover officer to pay for explosives and tactical gear.

Jonker quotes from Franks' motion for bond, which notes that Franks is a homeowner, a man who has overcome drug addiction and now works to help others do the same, and that he lives with his girlfriend and his mother.

In addition to touting Franks' life story, the bond motion argues that, if released, he wouldn't have access to dangerous weapons.

"Mr. Franks asserts that he lacks the tools or experience to manufacture firearms and would not have access to firearms if released on bond," Jonker wrote.

Franks also has type 1 diabetes, and argues this puts him at high risk for serious illness if he were to get COVID-19. 

But, Jonker argues, Franks' team made no arguments in the bond motion that hadn't been made to the magistrate before she denied him bond.

"The totality of the evidence presented clearly and convincingly shows that releasing Mr. Franks on any set of conditions would create a serious risk of danger to the community, just as the Magistrate Judge determined," Jonker wrote.

Brian Higgins, 52, denied bond ahead of extradition hearing

On Thursday, Brian Higgins, 52, a Wisconsin man accused of providing material support for an act of terrorism, was also denied bond, according to court records. 

His case was heard not in federal court, but in Columbia County Court in Wisconsin. Judge Todd Hepler ordered that Higgins be held in the Columbia County Jail until further order of the court.

The day before, court records show Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers had signed a warrant for Higgins' arrest. 

Prior to Evers signing the warrant, Higgins was out on a $10,000 bond, set by Hepler.

October:Wisconsin man charged in alleged Whitmer plot released on bond

The issue of Higgins' extradition to Michigan will be decided in December.