FBI informant 'Big Dan' testifies in day 5 of governor kidnapping plot trial, says he was terrified by what the group would do

FBI informant 'Big Dan' Chapel took the stand Friday in one of the most anticipated testimonies of the trial.
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Posted at 8:34 AM, Mar 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-18 22:44:54-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.  — Witness testimony resumed Friday in the trial of four men accused of plotting to kidnap and kill Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Day five of the trial started with testimony from FBI Special Agent Mark Schweers.

Agent Schweers told the jury that the FBI agents and the undercover sources they were using were aware each of them was working with the government. He said there were times at some meetings where there were more FBI sources at a given time than actual defendants.

After Agent Schweers, the jury heard from one of those confidential sources: Dan Chapel. He was known to the group as “Big Dan.”

He was a United States Postal Service worker, a retired Army sergeant and firearms instructor, and a Second Amendment advocate. But when Dan Chapel learned that members of the Wolverine Watchmen, a group he had just recently joined to keep his shooting skills sharp, were planning to collect the addresses of law enforcement to inflict violence, he became an FBI informant too.

Chapel, who took the stand Friday in one of the most anticipated testimonies of the trial, said he feared for his daughter’s safety and was terrified of what the group might do. A week after reaching out to the federal agency, he was employed as an undercover confidential human source.

‘Big Dan,’ as he was known to other members of the Wolverine Watchmen, said he was paid $38 per day for his work, plus to cost of hotel stays. Opening arguments from defense attorneys painted Chapel as a handsomely paid informant, motivated solely by compensation. It’s a key element in their defense that informants like Chapel, and undercover FBI agents – not their clients – were the ones who concocted a sinister plan to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

The FBI used nearly a dozen confidential informants in their investigation. Chapel says at one point, on a surveillance mission of the governor’s home, defendant Barry Croft was unknowingly in a car with Chapel and two other FBI agents.

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Court sketch of the defendants table from day 5 of the trial.

Croft was unaware, but all three government employees knew the others were working the case for law enforcement.

Chapel attended several meetings throughout 2020, from field training exercises to reconnaissance missions. Some used live-fire, others were just conversations.

Those conversations, recorded in secret by Chapel, captured shocking details. Brandon Caserta, one of the four defendants, wanted to take out pro-vaccine doctors and lawyers; wanted to rob trucks transporting vaccine doses, and expressed interest in locating contact tracing facilities and killing employees.

Adam Fox, in another recording, told Chapel he “wanted to make the world glow” and had stored a so-called ‘go box’ stocked with hundreds of rounds of ammunition and C-4, buried somewhere in Michigan.

Croft told Chapel in yet another recording that the plot to overthrow the Michigan government “would be the last act” of his life. He called himself a “pioneer” and stated he wanted to “rewrite history.” He also suggested the group “go wherever we can amass first.” Chapel took it to mean they would kidnap the state governor that was poised for the easiest abduction.

Defense attorneys aren’t arguing their clients said these things. Instead, they’re trying to prove the words were simply “tough talk,” as Adam Fox attorney Christopher Gibbons put it in his opening argument.

Chapel is expected to take up the bulk of the fifth day of testimony.

Thursday was the first day of the trial this week after a possible COVID-19 exposure delayed testimony for three days.

Then testimony was briefly delayed on Thursday while the court tried to contact missing juror #162. One of the six alternate jurors, #43, stepped in to fill the vacancy. FOX 17 later learned the absent juror was sick, but not with COVID-19.

Barry Croft's attorney Joshua Blanchard finally got a chance Thursday to cross-examine FBI agent Christopher Long, who was assigned to specifically investigate Croft.

What Blanchard seemed to really want to get at was why the FBI began their investigation into Croft in the first place in mid-2020.

Agent Long said it was a combination of Croft's violent language online and the fact that he had firearms when he wasn't allowed to as a felon.

The problem with that narrative, according to Delaware-Online, is that Croft had his felony convictions for assault and burglary pardoned by the Delaware governor in April 2019. That means that Croft wasn't technically a felon when the FBI officially opened a case on him.

We also heard more secret recordings from FBI agents who were wearing wires at militia meetings with the members. At one of those meetings in Wisconsin, you can hear Broft's young daughter run up to him and ask if he wants a Dorito.

In the recording, you can hear Croft brush her off saying, "Honey… I'm making explosives."

In other recordings, Adam Fox and Barry Croft can be heard talking about taking government officials, including Governor Whitmer, with Fox saying he wanted to tie her up and all pose in a picture like a police drug bust.

Need a recap on the case? Catch up on everything you need to know about the suspects, attorneys, undercover agents and the alleged plot in the video below.

The plot to kidnap the governor: What you need to know about the suspects, attorneys and alleged plot

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