BELLAIRE, Mich. (AP) — A Wisconsin man accused of assisting the key figures in a plot to kidnap Michigan's governor pleaded guilty Wednesday to a lesser charge and will cooperate with prosecutors.
Brian Higgins said he attempted to provide material support for terrorism, a crime that carries a maximum prison term of five years. He drove past Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's second home in Antrim County in 2020 while allies waited across a lake for a signal from his laser-style device.
Higgins was among five men scheduled to face trial later this year in northern Michigan. They were not charged in the kidnapping conspiracy but were accused of providing key support.
The ragtag band of anti-government rebels was planning to eventually snatch the Democrat and trigger a civil war before the 2020 election, investigators said, but informants and undercover FBI agents were inside the group for months and helped break up the plot.
Higgins, 54, admitted that he was on the night ride with a camera rigged to his pickup truck. Whitmer was not at the house at the time.
“I wish to plead guilty,” Higgins told the judge, appearing in court by video from Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, where he has been free on bond.
Prosecutors also had evidence that Higgins trained with key members of the conspiracy at a “kill house” on the same weekend as the ride to Elk Rapids.
Fourteen people were charged in three different courts. The U.S. Justice Department secured convictions against four men in federal court, including leaders Barry Croft Jr. and Adam Fox, though two men were acquitted.
Three men charged with aiding Fox were found guilty in Jackson County in October and are serving long prison terms.
Higgins won't be sentenced by Judge Charles Hamlyn until after the August trial of his four co-defendants. His cooperation could improve his chances for a lighter sentence.
“Anti-government extremism poses a threat to the safety of public officials, law enforcement officers and residents all across our state. ... We will keep fighting to deliver justice as the remaining prosecutions continue to play out," Attorney General Dana Nessel said.
When the plot was foiled, Whitmer blamed then-President Donald Trump, saying he had given “comfort to those who spread fear and hatred and division.” Last August, after 19 months out of office, Trump said the kidnapping plan was a “fake deal.”
White reported from Detroit.