GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (NewsNation Now) — A federal grand jury has indicted six men with conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer several months ago.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Michigan announced the charges Thursday against Adam Fox, Barry Croft Jr., Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta. If convicted, they each could face up to life in prison.
Agents foiled a plot to kidnap Whitmer in October, and authorities said the alleged scheme involved months of planning and even rehearsals to snatch the governor from her vacation home.
The men aimed to hold Gov. Whitmer for “ransom or reward,” the federal indictment said.
Defense attorneys have said their clients were “big talkers” who didn’t intend to follow through on the alleged plan.
The indictment repeats allegations made during an October hearing, where agent Richard Trask testified that the men were involved with paramilitary groups.
Fox and Croft attended a June meeting in Dublin, Ohio, at which the possible kidnapping of governors and other actions were discussed, the indictment states.
It says Fox later met Garbin, a leader of a Michigan group called the “Wolverine Watchmen,” at a rally outside of the Michigan Capitol in Lansing. At a meeting in Grand Rapids, the two men and other members of the Watchmen agreed to work together “toward their common goals,” the document says.
It describes live-fire “field training exercises” and other preparations, including the surveillance of Whitmer’s vacation house and the exchange of encrypted messages.
During one training event, “they practiced assaulting a building in teams, and discussed tactics for fighting the governor’s security detail with improvised explosive devices, a projectile launcher, and other weapons,” the indictment says.
They also discussed destroying a highway bridge near Whitmer’s house to prevent law enforcement from responding, it states.
The indictment says that in an electronic message, Caserta wrote that if the men encountered police during a reconnaissance mission, “they should give the officers one opportunity to leave, and kill them if they did not comply.”
All six men were previously charged by federal complaint. But the Constitution requires the government to present the felony case to a federal grand jury, which must then indict the defendants in order to move forward with the prosecution, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
An investigation into the kidnapping plot remains ongoing, officials said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.