GRAND RAPIDS (AP) - An Army veteran who joined a militia to maintain his gun skills testified Friday that he became an FBI informant after the group talked about killing police, a turning point that led to covert work and eventual charges in an incredible plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
The informant, known as Dan or Big Dan, is a major witness for prosecutors in the trial of four men charged with a kidnapping conspiracy in federal court in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was not asked to provide his last name on the witness stand.
Dan became especially close to Adam Fox, who is described as a leader of the scheme, secretly recording hours of conversations in 2020, participating in gun training and making road trips to northern Michigan to look at Whitmer's vacation home.
It was an unusual odyssey for Dan, 35, a postal worker, self-described libertarian and gun rights advocate who said he was simply looking for ways to keep his firearm skills sharp after serving in Iraq. He found the Wolverine Watchmen on Facebook but things turned sour.
"They wanted to target law enforcement and kill them," said Dan, who informed a friend who was in law enforcement.
"About a week later, I was contacted by the FBI. ... They asked if I would stay inside the group and monitor their activity," Dan told the jury.
Fox, Barry Croft Jr., Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta are charged with conspiracy. Prosecutors say they turned their anger toward government in 2020 into a plot to kidnap Whitmer at her vacation home because of restrictions she imposed during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jurors were hearing a fourth day of testimony Friday in a trial that could last more than a month.
FBI agent Mark Schweers said Thursday that he fooled Fox and others into believing he was Mark Woods from Michigan's Upper Peninsula who shared their disgust for government and Whitmer. He, too, wore a recording device, bonded with the men while firing guns and traveled to Elk Rapids to scout the governor's second home.
"We want her flex-cuffed on a table while we all pose and get our pictures taken like we just made the biggest drug bust in ... history," Fox said of Whitmer, laughing and using profanities.
"You give us that, we'll be happy," he said. "Then you lock her ... up, even if we gotta go with her."
Defense lawyers claim informants and agents improperly influenced the men. Schweers acknowledged that he paid for meals and provided rides for Fox, who promised to make him "warden of the north," a reference to a "Game of Thrones" character.
Whitmer, a Democrat who is seeking reelection, rarely talks publicly about the case. She has blamed former President Donald Trump for fomenting anger over coronavirus restrictions and refusing to condemn right-wing extremists like those charged in the case. She has said Trump was complicit in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.