CHICAGO (WLS) -- New video obtained tonight by the ABC7 I-Team shows accused Michigan militiamen in live-fire training, according to federal prosecutors. Prosecutors have charged the men in an alleged scheme to kidnap and possibly kill Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer.
Front and center in the alleged plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer at gunpoint was a man named Barry Croft, who is seen carrying one flag of the Boogaloo Bois, a far-right anti-government movement. Croft is in photos and on video obtained by the I-Team that prosecutors say shows him and other in live assault weapons training-preparing for a violent assault on the Michigan governor's summer home.
Prosecutors say the video was taken during a militia live-fire exercise in southern Wisconsin. According to the case's latest court filing, federal agents had enlisted twelve confidential informants to provide information about Barry Croft and other members of the Wolverine Watchmen, a militia group that allegedly had a plan in place last year to kidnap and potentially kill the Michigan governor.
Digital messages allegedly involving Croft, also provided today to the I-Team, refer to a bridge near the governor's vacation home that authorities say the militiamen scouted, photographed and planned to blow up during their commando attack. All of this information was presented at Croft's detention hearing last January but public release was held up by defense concerns that these images would poison a prospective jury pool.
"It's a legitimate claim because it's true, it can make it more difficult to pick a fair jury, but the reality of it is it's rarely enough to, to require a transfer of venue from whatever location the trial would be pending into somewhere else," said Former Chicago federal prosecutor Gil Soffer. Soffer, ABC7's legal analyst, tonight says these live fire training videos may make it more difficult to defend Croft and the others; but the real damage could come from a dozen informants.
"You might see a number of that high in a sprawling narcotics conspiracy that stretches from coast to coast and beyond. That's a pretty high number in a case like this it really reflects I think how deeply the government has been diving into this investigation to try to make these cases," Soffer told the I-Team.
Before the FBI launched such a deep investigation, the Wolverine Watchmen were not even considered a violent threat according to attorneys for the defendants. In the latest defense filing tonight they say the group was not engaged in illegal conduct of any sort. An attorney for Croft didn't respond to an I-Team request for comment but told our ABC-Detroit station that they "are looking forward to presenting all of the facts to a jury this fall."