Big Dan’s big stories at center of governor kidnap entrapment claims

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — An FBI informant known as “Big Dan” told big stories as he worked with the feds to help investigate an alleged plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, according to an attorney for a defendant in the case.

Big Dan told alleged co-conspirator Adam Fox that he was a hero who had exchanged gunfire with enemy combatants, that he had been shot and wounded during tactical missions, Fox’s attorney wrote in a court document.

Big Dan, the attorney wrote, also claimed he had saved the life of Christopher Kyle, a real Navy SEAL whose story was told in the movie “American Sniper.”

Fox, 40, of Grand Rapids, claims Big Dan was among four informants who induced him into action and that he wasn’t predisposed to plot to kidnap the governor.

The attorney claimed Big Dan suggested violent crimes against Whitmer and governors in other states, even suggesting Fox fire a “round” into Whitmer’s northern Michigan cottage.

Fox wants access to the informants’ cellphones to prove entrapment.

Without access, his attorney argued, the government can “cherry pick the ugliest remarks and messages from Adam Fox.”

Fox is among six charged in federal court with conspiring to kidnap the governor, an alleged plot broken up by authorities in October. One of the suspects, Ty Garbin, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy. He is scheduled for sentencing later this month. The other five — Fox, Barry Croft Jr., Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta — are set for trial in October.

Attorneys for others in the group have made the same entrapment arguments.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office, in court documents, argued the men were predisposed to commit the crime.

Authorities say the suspects, antigovernment extremists and members of a militia called the Wolverine Watchmen, were angry about executive orders Whitmer, a Democrat, had issued to mitigate the spread of coronavirus because they believed she was overstepping her authority.

For example, the feds claimed in court documents, Fox and Croft were at a meeting with “militia” activists in June 2020 when they proposed attacking governors of Michigan, Ohio and Virginia. At that meeting, the feds claimed, Croft showed off an improvised explosive device he had built.

A month later, the feds said, Fox met for the first time with an undercover agent and talked of their plans.

“We’re moving forward man, we’re actively planning some missions right now,” they quoted Fox as saying.

Legal experts said claims of entrapment often fail. They must prove that the kidnapping plot wouldn’t have gone anywhere without the undercover agents’ help.

“Essentially, without the government’s involvement in some way or the government sponsorship in some way, the crime would not have been committed, or there wouldn’t have been steps taken in furtherance of having the crime committed,” Michael Zweilback, a former assistant U.S. Attorney in California, told Target 8.

“It’s very difficult on the defendant; entrapment cases sometimes but rarely work,” he said.

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