Wisconsin man charged in Whitmer plot takes extradition to appeals court

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
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The Wisconsin man charged as part of the plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is taking his case to an appeals court in his quest to fight extradition to Michigan.

Brian Higgins, who is from the town of Wisconsin Dells, on Monday filed a notice of appeal after a Columbia County Circuit Court last month declined to quash the request for his extradition. 

But Judge Todd Hepler also stayed his Dec. 15 order so that Higgins would not be removed to Michigan while his appeal is pending.

This undated photo provided by Columbia County Jail shows Brian Higgins.

That appeal could last a year or more, and prosecutors warned last month that the judge's stay would delay their case and potentially result in Higgins' prosecution being separated from those of the other defendants charged in the alleged scheme. 

The Michigan Attorney General's Office declined to comment Tuesday because the litigation is pending.

Higgins' defense lawyer, Christopher Van Wagner, had argued Hepler should toss the extradition request because Whitmer had an "obvious" conflict of interest as the named victim in the alleged crime who also authorized the extradition paperwork. Hepler disagreed.

"Mr. Higgins is not being deported to some third-world kangaroo court. He will enjoy all of the constitutional rights guaranteed to every American citizen, including due process of law," Hepler said at last month's hearing. 

Hepler stressed that Whitmer is not a complaining party and did not herself issue the indictment of Higgins, who is charged with material support of an act of terrorism for his alleged role in the kidnapping scheme.

"The court believes that any prejudice or error of impropriety that might be generated by the issue of the governor being an alleged victim is remedied in this case by three levels of separation," the judge said. 

Higgins is among 14 conspirators charged last fall in the alleged plot, which authorities say involved training and planning by a militia-style group known as the Wolverine Watchmen to kidnap Whitmer and storm Michigan's Capitol in Lansing.

Michigan State Police in an affidavit claimed that Higgins participated in surveillance of Whitmer’s vacation home last year, provided night-vision goggles and used a dash camera in his vehicle to record footage of the surveillance in order to aid in the kidnappers' plans. 

If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

mburke@detroitnews.com

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