Rogue FBI 'snitch' in Whitmer kidnap case should be forced to testify, lawyers say

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

"rogue" FBI informant should be forced to testify in the trial of four men accused of plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer despite fears federal prosecutors will charge him with new crimes, defense lawyers said Wednesday.

Defense lawyers want informant Stephen Robeson of Wisconsin to testify under oath about his work as an FBI informant and leader of a fake militia who organized trainings and meetings and recorded members of the alleged kidnap plot, according to a defense request filed early Wednesday in federal court in Grand Rapids.

Stephen Robeson

FBI agents sanctioned Robeson's activities, paid him, rewarded him, gave him secret recording equipment and let him commit illegal activities while working for the government, defense lawyers wrote in the request. 

"Robeson now seeks to assist the government to avoid answering for their actions by hiding behind the pretense of self-incrimination despite being given nearly carte blanche authority by his agents and handlers to gallivant across the country, parading himself as the leader of a national militia and being a significant link in the defendants’ case," defense lawyers Joshua Blanchard and Christopher Gibbons wrote.

They represent accused plotters Barry Croft, 46, of Delaware and Adam Fox, 38, of Potterville. They are standing trial alongside Lake Orion resident Daniel Harris, 24, and Brandon Caserta, 33, of Canton Township.

The four men standing trial in the Gov. Gretchen Whitmer kidnapping conspiracy case: (Clockwise from left): Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Brandon Caserta and Daniel Harris.

They face up to life in prison if convicted of kidnapping conspiracy.

The request came ahead of what could be a pivotal day of testimony in the kidnap trial.

Ty Garbin

One of the government's star witnesses, convicted plotter Ty Garbin,  26, of Hartland Township, started testifying just before 9 a.m. He is expected to testify that the idea to kidnap Whitmer originated with members of the alleged plot and that they were not entrapped by FBI agents and informants.

Garbin is serving a six-year sentence in federal prison. A second convicted plotter, Kaleb Franks, is awaiting a prison sentence.

Robeson was poised to be one of the government's key witnesses. But prosecutors dropped him as an informant and indicted him last year for illegally buying a sniper rifle.

Prosecutors also said Robeson was dropped as an informant because he was working as a double agent, offering to finance attacks and use a drone to commit domestic terrorism.

Robeson pleaded guilty to the gun charge.

Defense lawyers Wednesday said Robeson "has a prolific history of being a snitch," citing his work as an informant for various government agencies since the early 2000s.

Discovery disclosed by the government shows that Mr. Robeson appointed Mr. Fox as the commanding officer of the fake 'Michigan chapter of the Patriot III%ers,'" the lawyers wrote.

Robeson played a pivotal role, they wrote in the Wednesday filing.

"... his role within the investigation has ranged from arranging meetings and providing conference rooms to coordinating (field trainings) for the defendants to attend and transporting weapons, defendants and explosives across the country," the lawyers wrote. "His handling agents knew of his role within the group and acquiesced in his actions under the guise of maintaining access and credibility within the group."

rsnell@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @robertsnellnews