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Men wanted to blow up Whitmer boat "mafia style" before settling on kidnapping plans, FBI agent testifies

 Adam Fox, in a photo taken by FBI informant Dan Chappel
U.S. Prosecutor's office for the Western District of Michigan
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U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Michigan
Adam Fox, in a photo taken by FBI informant Dan Chappel

A group of men discussed blowing up Governor Gretchen Whitmer's boat “mafia style” before settling on a plan to kidnap her, according to an FBI agent who testified against them Monday in northern Michigan.

FBI special Agent Henrik Impola said, at one point, he had to notify Whitmer’s security officers to make sure none of her family members were present at their vacation home in Elk Rapids, because the men were planning a surveillance mission.

“I just told them that they couldn’t be there because they were in danger,” Impola testified in 86th District Court Monday afternoon. “I didn’t ask them to do anything. I just told them about the information and they made their own determinations.”

The state is charging Brian Higgins, Shawn Fix, Eric Molitor and brothers Michael and William Null with providing material support to a terrorist act. Each of the five men also faces a charge of possessing a firearm while committing a felony. They’re among 14 men total who were charged over the alleged plot to kidnap Whitmer in 2020.

Two of the men - Adam Fox and Barry Croft - were found guilty of conspiring to kidnap the governor by a federal jury in Grand Rapids last week. Two other men were found not guilty in April, and two others pleaded guilty.

Monday, attorneys for the five men facing charges in northern Michigan repeatedly objected to Impola’s testimony in the case, arguing Impola wasn’t present for many of the conversations he discussed in court.

“Just because he’s with the FBI - he’s no different from you or me,” said attorney Thomas Siver, who represents Michael Null. “If I was there, I could testify to it. He wasn’t there, judge.”

Silver continued, calling the testimony “bush league” and said Impola was acting as a “puppet monkey” for the prosecution, which led to a rebuke from the judge.

Judge Michael Stepka has hearings scheduled all this week for the five men, to determine whether there’s enough evidence against them for the case to continue on to a jury trial.

Copyright 2022 Michigan Radio. To see more, visit Michigan Radio.

Dustin Dwyer is a reporter for a new project at Michigan Radio that will look at improving economic opportunities for low-income children. Previously, he worked as an online journalist for Changing Gears, as a freelance reporter and as Michigan Radio's West Michigan Reporter. Before he joined Michigan Radio, Dustin interned at NPR's Talk of the Nation, wrote freelance stories for The Jackson Citizen-Patriot and completed a Reporting & Writing Fellowship at the Poynter Institute.