Whitmer kidnapping plot: Defense questions informant activity

Anna Liz Nichols
The Detroit News

An FBI agent answered hours of questions Wednesday about his involvement in the agency's investigation into an alleged plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a third day of hearings for five men charged.

FBI special agent Henrik Impola answered hours of questions Wednesday, including addressing the issue of one of the informants being a double agent who  tried to sabotage the investigation and another agent for using marijuana.

The proceedings also included scrutiny of the FBI’s informants and their trustworthiness.

The defense attorneys representing five of the members of the alleged plan to kidnap Whitmer got their chance Tuesday and Wednesday to dispute Impola's testimony, notably over the investigation's use of third-party evidence, including audio recordings, photos and videos Impola himself did not take.

The defendants include Shawn Fix of Belleville; Eric Molitor of Cadillac; Brian Higgins of Wisconsin Dells; and Michael Null of Plainwell and his twin brother, William Null of Shelbyville. 

The two men accused of being the ringleaders of the plot, Adam Fox and Barry Croft, were convicted on Aug. 23 of federal charges of kidnapping conspiracy and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction among other charges. Both face possible life in prison. Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks, who pleaded guilty to federal kidnapping conspiracy charges, testified against Fox and Croft.

Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta, were acquitted in April.

The defense asked Impola about what is asked of informants prior to acting as confidential sources. He said he asks his sources not to take on leadership roles or suggest ideas. He said he expects them to be truthful and not falsely identify themselves as agents of the federal government or perform illegal activity on the government’s behalf.

One of the FBI’s informants, referred to as “Dan,” took on a leadership role in the alleged ringleader Fox’s inner circle, despite being told not to and led some training exercises with the group.

Stephen Robeson of Wisconsin actively sabotaged the investigation after posing as an informant to the FBI, Impola said. Robeson tipped off Croft and Higgins that law enforcement was planning to arrest them.

Amid objections from the prosecution, Michael Hull’s attorney, Thomas Siver, confirmed with Impola that he and other members of the alleged plot would smoke marijuana when meeting.

Marijuana is illegal at the federal level, though legalized recreationally in 2018 in Michigan. Because of the federal law, Siver asked why Robeson wasn’t dropped as an informant immediately.

Siver asked if Impola had ever used marijuana as a tool to make people talk before or used marijuana himself. Impola said no.

Siver asked if while listening in on the meetings for the alleged kidnapping plot if Impola ever laughed or found the things Fox was saying as “out there." Impola said sometimes things sounded a bit “out there,” but he didn’t laugh.

During Fox and Croft’s case, the defense cited marijuana usage as a rationale for “big talk.”

There will be hearings all week for Grand Traverse District Judge Michael Stepka to decide if there's enough evidence for the five men to stand trial.