An FBI agent who was working undercover told jurors Thursday about a stop at a bridge near Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's vacation home during a night ride by anti-government extremists to continue planning a kidnapping.
Tim Bates, simply known as "Red" to the group, said he encouraged Adam Fox to take a picture of the bridge after they got out of a pickup truck. The government alleges that destroying it was part of a scheme to get Whitmer.
"They wanted to slow down law enforcement response," Bates testified.
No kidnapping took place in Elk Rapids. In October 2020, about a month later, Fox, Barry Croft Jr. and four others were arrested and accused of being domestic terrorists.
Fox and Croft are on trial for a second time on conspiracy charges. A jury in April couldn't reach a unanimous verdict but acquitted two other men.
Bates said he pitched himself to the group as someone who could get explosives. By fall 2020, he said there was talk about buying bomb components, and the FBI wanted to stay on top of it. Another agent as well as informants already had infiltrated the group.
Bates said Fox also talked about destroying a second bridge in the Elk Rapids area, though the government didn't offer any evidence of it on secretly recorded conversations. The agent also admitted during cross-examination that he hadn't disclosed it during the first trial last spring.
"You were wearing a recorder the entire trip, correct? And the recorder functioned, true?" Fox attorney Christopher Gibbons said.
"I can't speak to how all of them functioned," Bates replied, "but I believe a recorder was on the entire time."
The defense argues that Fox and Croft were entrapped by government operatives who fed their wild views. Prosecutors say the group wanted to trigger a national revolt and was especially furious over COVID-19 restrictions imposed by Whitmer during the early stages of the pandemic.
Defense lawyers have tried to make their case by sharply cross-examining the government's witnesses. Like Gibbons, Croft attorney Joshua Blanchard picked at the lack of a recording about Fox talking about destroying a second bridge.
"We should be able to hear that, right?" Blanchard said.
Croft, 46, is from Bear, Delaware. Fox, 39, was living in the basement of a vacuum shop in the Grand Rapids area.
Whitmer, a Democrat, has blamed then-President Donald Trump for stoking mistrust and fomenting anger over coronavirus restrictions and refusing to condemn hate groups and right-wing extremists like those charged in the plot.
Trump recently called the kidnapping plan a "fake deal."
Find the AP's full coverage of the kidnapping plot trial: https://apnews.com/hub/whitmer-kidnap-plot-trial