Man tells jury he never agreed to Michigan governor kidnap plot

Defendant Daniel Harris
Daniel Harris is one of four men charged with conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
(Kent County Sheriff’s Office; Delaware Department of Justice)

One of four men charged with conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer testified in his own defense Thursday, repeatedly telling jurors that he had “absolutely not” agreed to an alleged plot to abduct her before the 2020 election.

Daniel Harris, 24, said he is a former Marine who wanted to maintain his infantry skills when he joined a militia, the Wolverine Watchmen.

He said that “America was on fire” in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and the ensuing protests over police treatment of Black people.


Harris, Adam Fox, Barry Croft Jr. and Brandon Caserta are accused of plotting to kidnap Whitmer from her vacation home in northern Michigan because of their disgust with government and her tough COVID-19 restrictions.

Defense attorney Julia Kelly took Harris through key events raised by prosecutors earlier in the trial and repeatedly asked: “Did you agree to kidnap the governor of Michigan.”

“Absolutely not,” Harris replied.

Four men are going to trial for an alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

March 6, 2022

Prosecutors ended their side of the case Wednesday, the 13th day of trial. Jurors have seen and heard audio and video secretly recorded by FBI agents and informants, as well as violent, profanity-filled posts from social media and messaging apps.

In addition, two men, Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks, pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges and were vital witnesses for the government.

Defense attorneys contend that the men were engaged in a lot of crazy talk fueled by agents and informants but no conspiracy.

The first defense witness, Colleen Kuester of Baraboo, Wis., said she was invited by an acquaintance to a “family fun day” in Cambria, Wis., in July 2020. Cambria was a training site for the group and other self-styled militia members, according to evidence.


A man upset over state-ordered coronavirus restrictions was sentenced to just over six years in prison for planning to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Aug. 25, 2021

Kuester said she found nothing sinister — just swimming, target shooting and bratwursts.

But Assistant U.S. Atty. Jonathan Roth played secretly recorded audio of men talking about making bombs.

“Did you hear that at Cambria?” he asked.

“Absolutely not,” Kuester replied.

At least five other defense witnesses bowed out Wednesday, saying they would assert their right to remain silent if called to testify. They included an informant, Steve Robeson of Oxford, Wis., who switched sides during the investigation and tipped off Croft that the FBI wanted to arrest him, according to the government.

The others who invoked the 5th Amendment had participated in training as well as discussions about the plot but have not been charged.

Croft’s longtime companion, Chastity Knight of Bear, Del., was among the final witnesses called by prosecutors.

“He was anti-government,” Knight said of Croft. “He just thought the government’s not for him. The government doesn’t help the people out. They like to line their own pockets.”

The men were arrested in October 2020 amid talk of obtaining an explosive that could blow up a bridge and hold back police from responding to a kidnapping at Whitmer’s second home, according to trial testimony.

Garbin said the group acted willingly and had hoped to strike before the election, cause national chaos and prevent Joe Biden from winning the presidency.

Members of anti-government paramilitary groups discussed kidnapping Virginia’s governor, an FBI agent testified Tuesday.

Oct. 13, 2020

Whitmer, a Democrat, rarely talks publicly about the kidnapping plot, though she referred to “surprises” during her term that seemed like “something out of fiction” when she filed for reelection on March 17.

She has blamed former President Trump for fomenting anger over coronavirus restrictions and refusing to condemn right-wing extremists like those charged in the case. Whitmer has also said that Trump was complicit in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.