GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Kaleb Franks, one of several men facing federal charges for conspiracy to kidnap, has filed a motion to request additional documentation from the government in regard to their use of confidential informants. Franks's defense attorneys write in the filing that he will present a defense alleging the government is guilty of entrapment.
“When Kaleb Franks set out to train in weaponry and tactics, enjoy time outdoors, and spend a Midwestern summer trying to find respite from the cares of professional and personal obligations and demands," reads a portion of the motion filed on July 15, 2021.
"He had no thoughts of harassing the government, staging a coup, or ending up on the national stage as an alleged terrorist."
Adam Fox, Ty Garbin, Daniel Harris, Brandon Caserta and Kaleb Franks are all codefendants in the federal case.
Garbin is the only one of the group who has taken a plea deal, pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit kidnapping, while agreeing to fully cooperate with the prosecution.
“When one of the codefendants comes in and says, 'No, no, no', we all talked about it, and they were really involved, they were anxious, and they really wanted to do this… that kind of belies what they would testify to, as to being convinced to do it by an undercover officer," said Jeffrey D. Swartz, a professor with WMU Cooley law school.
Swartz says that Franks will have a difficult time making the case that he was entrapped by the FBI when one of his alleged co-conspirators will almost certainly testify for the prosecution.
Regardless, Franks's defense team is laying out the groundwork for that defense, and several of Franks's codefendants who haven't taken deals are also trying to get ahold of more information on the confidential informants used in the case against them.
"They're going to be trying to present evidence to show that the defendant was not predisposed to commit the crime. That's going to be the big thing that they're going to be pushing out,” Swartz said.
In the original criminal complaint filed against the men, the prosecution notes that on July 7, 2020, in the midst of the alleged plot, Franks said in front of a confidential informant that he was "not cool with offensive kidnapping" and that he was "just there for training."
But Swartz says it's not a slam-dunk defense.
“It is a very difficult mountain to climb, because it, probably more than anything else, will require that the defendants testify.”
The recent filing also attempts to point out potentially problematic relationships between confidential informants and their FBI handlers, saying that one has a "decades-long history of acting as a professional snitch for the government."
They note that one informant allegedly received about $54,000 for his cooperation, and a third received an envelope with $2,500 inside.
Franks's defense team wants to get their hands on any communications between the confidential informants and their handlers.
But Swartz says, “What the police officers communicated between themselves has nothing to do with whether the defendant was given an opportunity to commit the crime, and did it willingly... as opposed to the defendant not being predisposed, and that the police officers presented more than the opportunity, but the ways, the means, and the impetus to commit the crime itself.”