GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A federal judge on Friday, Sept. 17, said he would postpone the Oct. 12 trial of five men accused of planning to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
A new date wasn’t immediately set, but U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker suggested the trial might get pushed to February or March. Defense lawyers said they needed more time to pore over evidence shared by federal prosecutors, especially the undercover work of FBI agents and informants.
“I trust the judgment of these five lawyers,” Jonker said.
The delay means the trial, and subsequent sentencing hearings if there are convictions, would occur while Whitmer, a Democrat, is seeking reelection in 2022.
The five men have been in custody for nearly a year.
A sixth man, Ty Garbin, pleaded guilty and was recently sentenced to slightly more than six years in prison. He’s expected to be a major witness for the government at trial.The government said the men were upset over coronavirus restrictions when they conspired to kidnap Whitmer, even scouting her second home in northern Michigan. They’ve pleaded not guilty and claim to be victims of entrapment.
When the kidnapping case was filed in October 2020, Whitmer pinned some blame on then-President Donald Trump, saying his refusal to denounce far-right groups had inspired extremists across the U.S.
It added even more heat to the final weeks of a tumultuous election season. Trump had earlier urged supporters to “LIBERATE” Michigan from stay-at-home mandates.