Wisconsin man accused in plot to kidnap Whitmer charged in Michigan court

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

The Wisconsin man accused of being part of the plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was arraigned Tuesday in a northern Michigan court.

Brian Higgins was arraigned from the Antrim County jail before a magistrate in 86th District Court in Grand Traverse County on a charge of providing material support for a terrorist act, a felony. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

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

Court magistrate Norene Kastys ordered Higgins held on a $100,000 bond and set several conditions if he posts bond, including surrendering his passport to the court, wearing a GPS tether if he leaves Michigan and attending every in-person court proceeding.

“My office is pleased to see Mr. Higgins arraigned in Michigan,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement. “Our focus remains on holding those who seek to do violence against elected officials — and therefore undermine our democracy — accountable.” 

Kastys scheduled a May 12 probable cause hearing in the case against Higgins. She also said his preliminary exam will be held along with those of the other defendants in the case.

Higgins stood mute during his arraignment, only answering direct questions and mostly having his Traverse City-based attorney Michael Naughton speak on his behalf.

"Mr. Higgins has no criminal history," Naughton said. "This is the first time he's been arraigned. This is all foreign to him."

Michigan Assistant Attorney General Greg Townsend argued bond should be determined by the seriousness of the crime of which Higgins is accused.

"It's a very serious offense that we have here — we're talking about a plot to kidnap the governor of the state of Michigan," Townsend said in the hearing. "We have evidence that will be presented at the preliminary examination about Mr. Higgins' involvement."

At one point, the magistrate asked Higgins questions about his physical and mental health. She also asked him if he was employed, and he answered that he had not been working for the last six months because he's been incarcerated, and he has been living off his savings. The hearing lasted about 20 minutes.

Higgins' arraignment comes about two weeks after Higgins dropped his appeal to halt his extradition to Michigan. Wisconsin officials sent Higgins to Michigan Monday to face the charge against him, according to authorities.

In January, Higgins sought the appeal after a county court declined a month earlier to quash the request for his extradition. 

Last month, Higgins filed to have the Wisconsin Court of Appeals voluntarily dismiss his request through his Wisconsin attorney, Christopher Van Wagner, according to court records.

Higgins, who is from the town of Wisconsin Dells, is among 14 conspirators charged last fall in an alleged plot that 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 claim 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 to aid in the kidnappers' plans. 

Staff Writer Melissa Nann Burke contributed.