By Jim Newell
Thirteen people who conspired to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer are in jail after a months long undercover investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation put a stop to the plan.
And an Orion Township man was allegedly part of the plot to kidnap the governor, according to and FBI affidavit filed in federal court.
Daniel Joseph Harris, 23, of Orion Township was reportedly one of the conspirators arrested in an FBI operation.
Harris, along with Michigan residents Adam Fox of Grand Rapids, Ty Garbin of Hartland Township, Kaleb Franks of Waterford, Brandon Caserta of Canton, and Barry Croft, a resident of Delaware, were taken into custody on Oct. 7.
The FBI announced a major investigation and arrests on Oct. 8.
The federal complaint charges Fox, Croft, Garbin, Franks, Harris and Caserta with conspiring to kidnap the governor of Michigan from her vacation home prior to the November election, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Andrew Birge said.
The men were charged in the U.S. District Court in the western district of Michigan.
Harris was booked into the Kent County Jail in Grand Rapids.
The investigation relied upon information and recordings from confidential informants and undercover law enforcement, according to the FBI criminal complaint.
Members of the group had talked about storming the state Capitol building and taking hostages; kidnapping Gov. Whitmer at her official or personal vacation residences; and taking her to remote location in Wisconsin to “stand trial” for treason, according to the FBI complaint.
The six conspirators are expected to appear in U.S. District Court for a hearing on Tuesday.
State of Michigan charges
Seven other men, who are facing charges in state courts, were arraigned on Thursday and Friday and remain in jail while awaiting court proceedings later this month, according to multiple reports.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said 19 state felony charges were filed against seven people known to be members of the Wolverine Watchmen militia group, or associates of the group.
Paul Bellar, 21, of Milford, was charged with providing material support for terrorist acts, gang membership and a felony firearm violation.
Shawn Fix, 38, of Belleville; Eric Molitor, 36, of Cadillac; Michael Null, 38, of Plainwell; and William Null, 38, of Shelbyville, were each charged with providing material support for terrorist acts and a felony firearm violation.
Pete Musico, 42, and Joseph Morrison, 42, who live together in Munith, were each charged with threat of terrorism, gang membership, providing material support for terrorist acts and a felony firearm violation.
Deputies from the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Orion Township substation assisted the FBI when agents executed a search warrant at a home on Beach Drive in Orion Township, a quiet street along the west side of Tommy’s Lake.
Lt. Dan Toth, commander OCSO Orion Township substation, said the search warrant was issued about 6:45 p.m. on Oct. 7.
“It was a very controlled and well-managed police operation,” Toth said, adding that Harris was not at the home at the time of the search and was taken into custody in another community. “It took several hours for the scene to be processed.”
Prior to the search on Oct. 7, the sheriff’s office had not been called out to the home before.
“We have not had any contact with (Daniel Harris) or any contact or issues with the family,” Toth said. “This is very unusual for Orion Township and a lot of these other areas.”
Despite this high-profile case, Orion Township is not a hotbed for Michigan militia activity, he said.
“That’s exactly what we’re saying. We have not had any other incidents, or similar incidents, or anything of this nature in Orion Township involving this particular group or any other groups,” Toth said. “We have a very open relationship with all of our residents, and residents stay in touch with the police.
“And If there’s any unusual circumstances or situations, residents should contact their local police. We always emphasize with our residents: If you see something, say something. If something in your neighborhood looks suspicious, say something and provide us the opportunity to take a second look at any suspicious circumstances,” Toth said.
Toth also wanted to reassure residents that the township is still a safe community and he and his deputies have talked to residents along Beach Drive to reassure them as well.
“There are always exceptions, but, by and large, our residents do a great job of staying in contact with the police when something doesn’t look right or feel right,” Toth said.
Daniel Harris and Orion Township’s connection
Harris reportedly took part in planning and training exercises with the conspirators.
During an online private, encrypted group chat in August, Harris reportedly stated, “Have one person go to her house. Knock on the door and when she answers it just cap her…”
“Cap” is slang for shooting someone.
The conspirators met at Harris’s home on Beach Street in Orion Township on Aug. 23. This was the only day mentioned in the FBI criminal complaint that the group met in Orion Township.
During that meeting, Garbin, Harris, Franks, Caserta, an FBI informant (who recorded the meeting) and three others allegedly discussed concerns about being infiltrated by law enforcement and were required to bring personal documents to confirm their identities, according to the criminal complaint.
The group also discussed surveilling the governor’s vacation home in preparation for an attack.
Since Harris’s arrest, the United States Marine Corps has since confirmed that he was a Marine, reportedly from ages 18-22 years old.
Harris is facing federal charges in the case, which could put him in prison for life if he is convicted.