One of six men facing federal charges over an alleged plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan is asking a judge to reconsider her decision to keep him in jail, because he fears he might catch COVID-19.
Kaleb Franks, 26, from Waterford, a township on the outskirts of Detroit, was arrested three weeks ago after undercover FBI agents and an informant told of their scheme.
Franks was allegedly part of the surveillance operation outside Whitmer’s cottage and was one of five suspects who drove to a meeting hoping to buy explosives and tactical gear, only to get arrested in what turned out to be a setup by the FBI.
A recovering heroin addict, Franks was sent to prison for cocaine and for home invasion, but insists he has turned his life around.
Kaleb Franks, 26, is arguing that he should be released from jail due to COVID concerns
Franks and his alleged co-conspirators filmed themselves practising with their weapons
The men plotted to kidnap Whitmer, pictured on Saturday at a rally with Obama and Biden
On October 13, U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally Berens ruled that Franks was a danger to the community and should be held in custody awaiting trial.
‘I don’t have a crystal ball,’ she said at the time.
‘I don’t have any ability to see the future. The best indicator of future behavior is past behavior,’ and the alleged plot against Whitmer was ‘clearly very dangerous.’
‘This is a very, very serious crime,’ said Berens, who denied bond to all six kidnap suspects charged in federal court.
In total, 14 men have been charged in the Whitmer kidnap plot; six are facing federal charges; eight are facing state charges. Only two have been released on bond.
Now lawyers for Franks are arguing that he should be released both on health grounds, and on the fact that he is a low flight risk.
Scott Graham, representing Franks, said that his client has diabetes and high cholesterol, takes insulin daily and fears contracting COVID-19 in jail, in court documents filed this week and obtained by the Detroit Free Press.
Five defendants in the kidnapping case appear in federal court in Grand Rapids, on October 13
Graham also pointed out that Franks owns his own house in Waterford; had a good job at Meridian Health Systems helping drug and alcohol addicts before his arrest; lives with his fiancée and her mother, both with clean records, and has the support of his family, the paper reported.
‘Mr Franks has been sober since he went to jail in 2013,’ Graham wrote.
‘Using his own past experiences as background, he had turned to helping others struggling with addiction.
‘He represents the ideal of a once-drug-offender turning his life around.’
Prosecutors, however, argue that Franks was deeply involved in the self-styled militia’s plot, and told the others he was ‘in for anything,’ as long as it was well-planned.
Franks allegedly expressed concerns about FBI infiltrators and the possibility of the plot being detected, and participated in acquiring firearms without serial numbers, so they couldn’t be traced by police.
Men were seen carrying out supposed tactical training exercise after exiting a PT Cruiser
The US Attorney’s Office released video and text message evidence in their case against six men who face federal conspiracy to kidnap charges against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
The men practiced target shooting and rehearsed drills in readiness for their alleged plot
Graham has denied the existence of a kidnap plot, calling the suggestion ‘outlandish and absurd.’
He wrote: ‘There has been talk of a plan to set her adrift in a boat in Lake Michigan.
‘Of course, there is no evidence describing how this would occur.
‘Allegations have been made that the conspirators planned to take the governor to Wisconsin and put her on trial.
‘Again, there is no evidence about how they planned to transport her to Wisconsin, through what would have surely been the most extensive manhunt in the history of the state.’
Graham also rejected prosecutors’ claims that Franks was involved in manufacturing two ‘ghost guns’, unregistered handguns — and that this implied Franks could obtain firearms if the judge released him on bail.
‘But the facts show that Mr Franks did not do any work to make a firearm,’ Graham wrote.
‘He did not have the tools or experience to do so.’
He is asking the judge to agree to release him with an electronic ankle tag.
The prosecution has until November 10 to file its response.