The trial of four men accused of a plot to kidnap Michigan’s Democratic governor is due to begin with jury selection on Tuesday.
Prosecutors say the men, some of whom are alleged militia members, targeted Gretchen Whitmer over Covid-19 rules she imposed early in the pandemic.
Lawyers for the accused say that the government’s evidence is flimsy and proves nothing more than boastful talk.
The trial in the city of Grand Rapids is expected to last about six weeks.
According to the FBI, which says it interrupted the plot 17 months ago, the men had planned to blow up a bridge near the governor’s vacation home, then kidnap her and put her on a “treason trial”. Ultimately 14 alleged plotters were arrested in late 2020.
Six of the group were charged in a federal court. The other eight face separate state charges.
Two of the men who faced federal charges have already pleaded guilty and are expected to testify against the remaining four at the trial. The undercover FBI agents that infiltrated the group are also expected to testify, and have been forced by a judge to reveal their real names over the objections of prosecutors.
“Making it crystal clear to the jury and the public that inside the courtroom, nothing is undercover and everything is out in the open will best ensure fairness during trial and eventual acceptance and respect for whatever the jury ultimately decides,” Chief US District Judge Robert Jonker ruled on Thursday.
Suspects Adam Fox, 38, Daniel Harris, 24, and Brandon Caserta, 33, are from Michigan, while Barry Croft, 46, is from the state of Delaware.
All four are facing charges of kidnapping conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Mr Croft and Mr Harris are also facing charges of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction.
Prosecutors say they will prove the men took specific steps towards achieving their plan, including travelling to the governor’s home, testing explosives and training for combat against Gov Whitmer’s security team.
The time of the FBI’s swoop came as Ms Whitmer’s lockdown orders drew thousands of protesters to the state capitol, where many legally entered government buildings with semi-automatic rifles and other firearms.