Feds poised to secure 2nd conviction tied to Whitmer kidnap plot as FBI informant folds

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Federal prosecutors are poised to secure the second conviction of a key insider involved in the alleged plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, according to federal court records.

FBI informant Stephen Robeson, 58, of Oxford, Wisconsin, has agreed to plead guilty after being indicted on a gun charge, his lawyer Joseph Bugni wrote in a letter to U.S. District Judge Stephen Crocker obtained by The Detroit News.

Allegations that the career criminal illegally possessed a .50-caliber sniper rifle while working undercover for the FBI marked the first sign of trouble with the Whitmer case that has relied heavily on informants and, in recent weeks, raised questions about possible misconduct by federal agents and whether they entrapped the accused kidnap plotters.

Steve Robeson

The deal involves Robeson pleading guilty to an unspecified crime and serving two years' probation, Bugni wrote. The deal has not been filed in federal court, however, due to delays caused, in part, by Robeson contracting COVID-19.

Bugni did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Robeson went from a potential star witness in next month's trial of five men accused of plotting to kidnap Whitmer to federal defendant. His March indictment following a prolonged period of cooperation suggested the relationship between Robeson and the FBI was destroyed and that prosecutors would not use him at trial, legal experts said.

But defense lawyers can try to call him as a witness and attack Robeson's credibility.

Ty Garbin

Robeson is the second person involved in the kidnapping conspiracy investigation to plead guilty to a federal crime. In January, kidnap plotter Ty Garbin, 25, of Hartland Township pleaded guilty for his role in the conspiracy and was sentenced to six years in federal prison.

Three sources familiar with the investigation identified Robeson as one of the government's undercover informants. Robeson attended and organized combat training in Wisconsin, participated in a June 2020 meeting in Dublin, Ohio, that served as a catalyst for the kidnapping plot, and he also attended a camp in northern Michigan where accused plotters underwent combat training, according to the sources.

Robeson's name also surfaced briefly during a federal court hearing in January. Joshua Blanchard, the attorney for accused plotter Barry Croft, mentioned Robeson while arguing government informants were the main drivers in the alleged kidnapping scheme.

Prosecutors say Stephen Robeson illegally possessed this brand of .50-caliber rifle.

The one-paragraph indictment of Robeson on March 3 does not mention the Whitmer case, and it was filed five months after FBI agents say they thwarted a kidnapping plot that involved at least 14 people.

The indictment alleges Robeson, a career criminal, possessed an Armalite .50-caliber sniper rifle, which is powerful enough to shoot a target more than a mile away.


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