DETROIT – The suspects accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also talked about "taking" Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam out of anger about that leader's lockdown order during the COVID-19 pandemic, an FBI agent testified Tuesday.
Special FBI agent Richard Trask disclosed this detail during a preliminary examination in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where five suspects have bond hearings scheduled for Tuesday to determine if they should be released or remain jailed pending the outcomes of their cases.
Prior to the bond hearings, Trask outlined the FBI's case against the men, alleging they are part of a larger group of self-titled militia members from multiple states who met online earlier this year and discussed attacking government officials.
Specifically, Trask testified, the members discussed "taking a sitting governor" and specifically had issues with the governors of Michigan and Virginia based on their lockdown orders.
"The understanding at the time was to potentially kidnap a sitting governor and remove them from office," Trask testified, later adding that the plan ultimately focused on Whitmer. "The plan was ultimately to take her and place her on trial at a different location."
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Trask also testified that the suspects at one point discussed disguising someone as a delivery person and going to Whitmer's door carrying a gun. Encrypted text messages from a group chat were also displayed in court and showed that one of the suspects, Daniel Harris texted: "Just mug the pizza guy and take his shirt," and "just take a pistol and like 3 rounds."
Trask delivered his testimony in a packed courtroom of more than 75 people with very little social distancing. Family members of the accused sat shoulder-to-shoulder in the courtroom pews, many of them not wearing masks. The U.S. Marshals also did not put on their masks until court was called into session.
The five suspects in the courtroom are among 13 militia members who were charged last week with plotting to kidnap Whitmer, storm the Capitol building and blow up police cars.
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam also a target in Gov. Whitmer kidnap plot