'I wanted to stop bad things': Informant 'Big Dan' Chappel cross-examined in Governor Whitmer kidnap retrial

The 35-year-old Army vet collected the bulk of the secret recordings the government is now using to try and implicate Adam Fox and Barry Croft
Big Dan web photo
Posted at 11:37 AM, Aug 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-16 17:54:36-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The 35-year-old Army vet who collected the bulk of secret recordings now being played in court by the government was cross-examined Tuesday in the retrial of the men accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The man known to Adam Fox and Barry Croft as "Big" Dan Chappel took the stand for direct exam early Monday afternoon. On Tuesday morning, defense attorneys began the process of cross-examining the undercover informant.

'Big Dan' Chappel is Cross-Examined
Fox's attorney, Chris Gibbons, began the process by pointing out the seemingly nonsensical nature of some of the alleged plans being thrown around inside the Wolverine Watchmen group.

The government has alleged the men sought out multiple people to purchase explosives from in an effort to further a kidnapping plot. They claim the group wanted to blow up a bridge on US-31 near Governor Whitmer's Elk Rapids cottage to slow down law enforcement response, if and when they executed a plan.

An undercover FBI agent, known to the group as "Red," showed several group members a video of a vehicle being blown up and claimed he could obtain explosives for several thousand dollars.

As Gibbons mentioned in court Tuesday, another option was apparently a "go box" that Shawn Fix claimed he had buried in a shipping contained somewhere. Fix was charged at the state level on charges related to the alleged plot.

Fix allegedly claimed falsely to members of the Wolverine Watchmen that he was a former Navy Seal, and that he had stolen 40,000 rounds, 140 firearms, and explosives, and placed them in that underground box.

Gibbons also went through the invoice of all cash payments the FBI made to Chappel for his participation in the investigation.

Chappel received reimbursement for 17 weeks of lost wages, a $4,300 laptop, and a smart watch.

Gibbons also spent time on the fact that Chappel, at multiple points in the investigation, had offered members of the Watchmen access to a credit card, which could be used to purchase "ammo, supplies, hotel rooms."

Chappel claimed Tuesday on the stand that he could not recall whether or not his FBI handlers had told him to offer the credit card to members of the group, but Gibbons pulled up a transcript from the first trial in March.

"That was because the FBI wanted you to, correct? They wanted somebody to take the money, correct?" Joshua Blanchard, Barry Croft's attorney, asked Chappel in the initial trial.

"They instructed me to. I don't know what their motivation was," he responded, according to a transcript completed by the court.

Once Blanchard had his chance to cross-examine Chappel on Tuesday, he asked Chappel if he's had any contact with his FBI handlers since the conclusion of the first trial.

Chappel claimed they only texted about, "that I did well [in the last trial], and logistics to get up here.”

Blanchard questioned Chappel on whether or not he wanted to be a part of this investigation, bringing up how much money he was "reimbursed" by the FBI.

“I wanted to protect lives; that’s why I stayed in the group,” Chappel strained.

“I never expected anything throughout the investigation. I wanted to stop bad things from happening to good people.”

Blanchard asked Chappel about why he needed a $4,300 laptop, which the FBI ended up reimbursing him for.

Chappel started speaking about how he needed a new computer and wanted to go to college in the near future.

"Can I not buy things with my own money?" he asked on the stand.

Blanchard asked if he planned to use the laptop for going to college, to which Chappel acknowledged he did.

Chappel claimed he never expected the FBI to reimburse him for buying the laptop, but was asked to provide all his receipts, which he did.

After Chappel was done providing testimony, the government called Scott Robertson with the ATF.

Robertson's job was to search ATF databases to see if Barry Croft ever registered any sort of explosive device with the agency.

He said that he found no record of Croft doing so.

Under cross, Blanchard clarified with Robertson that the ATF does not require citizens to register explosive devices such as fireworks.

Matthew Keepers, the "Baker", Takes the stand
Matthew Keepers was also briefly called to testify by the Government Tuesday.

Prosecutors have alleged that Keepers was one person Adam Fox considered trying to acquire explosives from.

Keepers was at one point trying to become a 'blaster' for Lafarge, a company with a quarry in Alpena.

He said that Fox asked him over Facebook to join their group, but didn't join as he wouldn't have time.

Fox allegedly in a message, "we are a militia group... won't be no egos... no f---ing drama... We gonna be a family bro. When the time comes, we will all fight together."

Ty Garbin Takes the Stand Again
After a quick cross-exam on Matthew Keepers, the government called Ty Garbin to the stand.

Garbin is one of two codefendants who entered into plea deals with the government prior to the start of the first trial.

Both he and Kaleb Franks testified on behalf of the government in the first trial.

Garbin was sentenced to just over 6 years in prison for his role in the alleged plot, after agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors.

He admitted on the stand Tuesday that he hopes to have more time shaved off that sentence for his continued cooperation and testimony.

Garbin, who said he eventually moved into a leadership role with the Wolverine Watchmen, claims he was attracted to the group because they seemed to have a similar mindset to his Libertarian leanings.

He liked that they were pro-second amendment and eliminating government oversight into civilian life.

When Assistant US Attorney Nils Kessler asked Garbin what Adam Fox wanted to do to Governor Whitmer, he said Fox wanted to, "hang her on public TV for the world to see."

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