Judge sets trial date in alleged Whitmer kidnapping plot case
A federal judge Friday ordered six men to stand trial March 23 on charges they schemed to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as part of a broader plot that has focused national attention on violent extremism in Michigan.
The order from Chief U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker in Grand Rapids comes three months after the FBI said agents had thwarted a plot motivated by anger over state restrictions on travel and business during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The six are charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping, a felony punishable by up to life in prison. Eight others are facing terrorism-related charges in state court.
The conspiracy described by FBI agents involved surveilling Whitmer's vacation home in northern Michigan and training with firearms and improvised explosive devices.
Co-conspirators are accused of discussing kidnapping Whitmer and leaving her in the middle of Lake Michigan. They also discussed "taking out" a second politician, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, and targeting other elected officials, including President Donald Trump.
Defense lawyers have portrayed their clients as tough talkers who were exercising their First Amendment rights who never carried out any kidnapping plot.
Earlier court hearings provided a peek at the multimedia trove of evidence gathered during the investigation, including secret audio and video recordings and encrypted chats and suggested the plot targeted additional politicians and sought to topple governments in as many as five states.
One of the videos shown in court showed men jumping out of cars and firing weapons.