GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — On Monday, an Army veteran who joined the Wolverine Watchmen militia group after finding them on Facebook testified on behalf of the government in the retrial of the two men still facing charges in the alleged plot to kidnap and kill Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
The 35-year-old, known to the group as "Big" Dan Chappel, was scrolling through Facebook in early 2020 when he came across a group the social media site suggested he join.
“It's kind of like a job interview," he said regarding the process of joining their Facebook group.
"You don’t know who’s asking the question, or how many people are in the group."
Testimony Begins Monday Morning
As the second week of the retrial kicked off Monday morning, Barry Croft's attorney, Joshua Blanchard, began the day by cross-examining FBI Special Agent Mark Schweers.
Schweers worked the months-long investigation as an undercover agent, known to the group as Mark Woods.
Adam Fox allegedly referred to Schweers as "the warden of the North" once they got close.
Scwheers accompanied the group on several alleged field training exercises, and on a trip up near Governor Whitmer's Elk Rapids cottage.
The undercover agent told Blanchard while on the stand that he is "an introvert's introvert" and had a difficult time keeping conversation with the defendants during long car rides.
After the court finished with Schweers's testimony, Chappel was called to the stand.
Prosecutors have acknowledged in court that Chappel was the undercover informant most prominent in the investigation, recording the bulk of the secret recordings.
Defense attorneys argued in the first trial that Chappel was the true architect of any alleged kidnapping plot.
"Did you consider yourself the leader of the group?" Kessler asked Chappel on the stand Monday.
"No," he responded.
"Who did you consider the leader?"
Chappel claims he found the Wolverine Watchmen group while going through his Facebook account, intending to find a group that was simply pro-second amendment.
After doing five years in the Army, including 15 months in Iraq where he saw combat, he wanted to find a place he could continue to train and shoot firearms.
"Shooting is a perishable skill; if you don't use it, you'll lost it," Chappel explained on the stand.
He says he was asked several questions when he requested to join the group.
They allegedly asked him about his political affiliation, and his current thoughts on law enforcement.
Chappel says he became worried about the group's intentions after their communications moved to encrypted chat application Wire.
"I became concerned with the group the first day I downloaded the Wire app," he said on the stand Monday.
Chappel claims he came to believe that the group wanted to train in order to target law enforcement and "kill them."
The government explained in their direct examination of Chappel that, as an undercover source, he was given a new phone, a new smart watch, and reimbursements related to food, travel and moving expenses.
Chappel claimed he was forced to sell his former home, which he shared with his daughter, after one of the group's members discovered his address following the investigation and arrests.
"Out of fear, and the safety of my daughter, I sold my house and bought a new residence," he explained.
Prosecutors played several audio recordings in court Monday that were apparently made by Chappel.
"Our goal is to restore the constitutional republic," Fox is seemingly heard saying in one recording.
“In our hearts and minds, we are not domestic terrorists."