Federal prosecutors have faced an array of ‘challenges’ in the Gretchen Whitmer kidnapping plot case: report
The terrorist threat that far-right White nationalist groups and militia extremists pose in the United States was painfully evident when, in October 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that six arrests had been made in connection with a foiled plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The extremists, after kidnapping Whitmer, planned to subject her to a bogus “trial” and execute her if found guilty. That kidnapping trial is scheduled to begin on March 8, 2022. But BuzzFeed News reporters Ken Bensinger and Jessica Garrison, in an article published on December 16, emphasize that there have been plenty of complications with the FBI’s case.
Some of those complications involve an FBI agent who played a major role in the investigation: Jayson Chambers, who according to Bensinger and Garrison, “incorporated a private security firm” and “spent much of 2019 trying to drum up business — in part by touting his FBI casework.”
“A continuing BuzzFeed News investigation reveals new information about how Chambers' business, along with an array of issues involving other FBI agents and informants, has bedeviled the prosecution,” Bensinger and Garrison report. “Those issues may well affect the course of the trial. But beyond the integrity of the case, the problems are serious and widespread enough to call into question tactics the FBI has relied on for decades — and to test the public’s trust in the bureau overall.”
According to the BuzzFeed reporters, “The challenges facing the prosecution mount: A second FBI agent, who had served as the case’s public face, was charged with beating his wife when they returned home from a swingers party. He was fired soon thereafter. A third agent was accused of perjury. A state prosecutor in a related case was reassigned and then retired in the face of an audit into his prior use of informants. And an informant whose work was crucial to the investigation was indicted on a gun charge and is now under investigation for fraud. Interviews, court records, and other documents reveal repeated instances of apparent lawbreaking by Stephen Robeson, who, while working with the government, identified and recruited potential targets in multiple states and who organized many of the events where prosecutors say the alleged kidnapping plan was hatched. Robeson’s apparent crimes took place under the nose of his FBI handlers.”
The defendants in the case, according to the FBI’s investigation, were furious with Whitmer because of restrictions and social distancing measures imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Between the six arrests announced by the DOJ in October 2020 and eight other arrests, a total of 14 men are facing federal criminal charges in the case. Bensinger and Garrison note that the defense team will likely “argue that the defendants were entrapped by an overzealous and compromised investigation.”
Nonetheless, the BuzzFeed journalists point out that DOJ prosecutors have no shortage of evidence.
“When the Michigan kidnapping trial begins on March 8,” Bensinger and Garrison explain, “federal prosecutors will have a mountain of evidence to draw from: hundreds of hours of clandestine recordings, as well as thousands of text messages and encrypted chats from militaristic training exercises, bomb-making sessions, and graphic discussions of violence against police and politicians. The defendants built and detonated bombs, twice surveilled Whitmer’s vacation home, talked about trying and executing her, and practiced forcibly entering structures they called ‘kill houses.’”
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