LANSING, Mich. — Michigan’s attorney general charged an eighth person Thursday in what authorities have described as a foiled scheme to storm the state capitol building and kidnap officials, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Brian Higgins, 51, of Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, was charged with material support of an act of terrorism, Attorney General Dana Nessel said. If convicted, Higgins could get up to 20 years in prison.
Seven men purportedly linked to an extremist paramilitary group called the Wolverine Watchmen were charged in state court last week with providing material support for terrorist acts and possession of a firearm while committing a felony.
Federal charges were filed against six others in the alleged conspiracy to kidnap Whitmer, a Democrat.
“While the political rhetoric in our nation may at times be divisive, I am encouraged by the united front our law enforcement community has displayed in response to this indescribable act of terror,” Nessel said.
“These were very credible, and very serious threats to our elected officials and the public in general, and the swift actions taken by state and federal authorities this past week are nothing short of heroic.”
In statements and court papers, authorities have alleged that members of two anti-government groups took part in plotting the Whitmer kidnapping and other crimes, although some were charged under federal law and others under state law.
“Wolverine Watchmen members together with another group led by Adam Fox, the ‘Michigan III%ers,’ engaged in planning and training for various acts of violence, including kidnapping politicians and storming the Michigan Capitol Building in Lansing,” Michigan State Police detective Sgt. Michael Fink said in an affidavit released Thursday.
The document did not identify officials other than Whitmer who might have been targets for abduction. An FBI agent testified during a federal court hearing this week that Whitmer and Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam had been mentioned during a June 6 meeting of groups of extremists from several states, including at least two of the federal defendants.
The affidavit said Higgins assisted four members of the Wolverine Watchmen who took part in surveillance of Whitmer’s vacation home in northern Michigan. Higgins provided night-vision goggles for the mission, the document said.
“Additionally, he used a mounted digital dash camera located in his vehicle to record the surveillance of the Governor’s home in order to aid in kidnapping plans,” it said.
A federal complaint said the groups cased the property Aug. 29 and the night of Sept. 12, and that the plotters had discussed taking Whitmer to Wisconsin for “trial.”
The state suspects hoped that by attacking the Capitol and law enforcement officers, they would “instigate a civil war leading to societal collapse,” Nessel said.
Higgins was arrested Thursday in Wisconsin and will be extradited to Michigan, she said.
A spokesman for Nessel said it was uncertain whether Higgins had an attorney. He was being held in the Columbia County Jail in Wisconsin. The county district attorney’s office said it wasn’t known when he would appear in court there.
A federal judge Tuesday ordered three of the federal defendants held without bond until trial. A bond hearing for two others — including Fox — was scheduled for Friday in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Flesher reported from Traverse City, Michigan.
Anna Liz Nichols is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
John Flesher And Anna Liz Nichols, The Associated Press