GRAND RAPIDS, MI: FBI handlers told informant Dan Chappel to label an “innocent man” a federal agent to avoid potential detection, an attorney said Tuesday in the trial over a conspiracy to kidnap Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
Chappel worked for the FBI as an informant in 2020 as part of the Bureau’s investigation into the plot to kidnap Whitmer over her COVID-19 policies. Of six men arrested and accused of taking part in the conspiracy, two have pleaded guilty. Brandon Caserta, Barry Croft Jr., Adam Fox, and Daniel Harris are contesting the charge.
Chappel, called to the stand by prosecutors, testified that FBI handlers directed him to accuse another man, identified as Trent, of being a federal agent to divert suspicion from himself. Chappel said that at one point during his work as an informant, he was concerned about being compromised and outed as working with the FBI.
During cross-examination, Caserta’s defense attorney Michael Hills pressed Chappel on the FBI’s reaction to his fears. Hills highlighted that the FBI directed Chappel to tell a group of men the federal government is now accusing of planning a violent plot to kidnap a sitting governor that an “innocent man” was actually an agent.
Chappel said that the FBI made the determination because the man was already mocked as “fed boy” by other militia members because of his “high-dollar” weapons and his propensity for skipping training. Chappel never accused “fed boy” of being a federal agent, nor was Chappel discovered as an informant during the investigation.
Chappel testified on Friday that the accused men agreed to a plan to attack Whitmer’s Elk Rapids cottage, assassinate her security detail, and abduct her to stand trial in a “kangaroo court” in Wisconsin. Attorneys for the four defendants argue that their clients were entrapped by federal agents into the scheme.
Croft attorney Joshua Blanchard suggested in his opening statement that FBI informants inappropriately obtained evidence because they were being compensated by the federal government. During his chance to cross-examine Chappel, Blanchard pointed to the former informant’s own compensation.
Chappel confirmed that he was paid about $54,000 in compensations and reimbursements for his work as an FBI informant. His job as a contract truck driver for the Postal Service earns him $55,000-$60,000 a year, he said. Chappel noted that he stopped working for about 4 months while he was an informant in 2020.
Blanchard brought out a receipt showing that Chappel had requested and received reimbursements from the FBI for a roughly $3,400 Microsoft Surface Book laptop, $190 laptop docking station, $20 mouse, and an $85 Surface Pen. Chappel also spent, and was reimbursed, about $205 for an extended warranty on the laptop. Blanchard introduced another receipt, which was not presented to the jury over uncensored personal information, showing Chappel was also reimbursed for a Samsung Galaxy Smartwatch.
Chappel is the most important witness to testify in the trial so far and one of the most relevant figures in the case. Chappel’s tip to a police officer in March 2020 worked its way to the FBI and played a key role in the Bureau’s decision to start investigating a Michigan militia group known as the Wolverine Watchmen. The FBI conducted a nearly seven-month investigation into the group and others before arresting six men in October 2020 on charges of conspiracy to kidnap Michigan’s governor, as well as a slew of other charges.