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May 4—BELLAIRE — A Wisconsin man who dropped his extradition appeal has been arraigned on one count of providing material support for a terrorist act as part of the accused plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Brian Paul Higgins, 52, of Wisconsin Dells was arraigned Tuesday in front of Magistrate Norene Kastys after being booked into Antrim County's jail late Monday, officials said.
Higgins stood mute to the count, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, though asked through his attorney Mike Naughton for the charge to be read into the record.
"Mr. Higgins has no criminal history, this is the first time he's ever been arraigned," Naughton said, arguing a request for bond, which was later granted.
"This is a very serous offense we're talking about here," said Assistant Attorney General Gregory Townsend. "It's not only the issue of whether he'll appear at the hearing."
Townsend said prosecutors contend Higgins provided one of the vehicles, a dash cam and a night vision scope used to surveil the governor's vacation home.
Higgins had been seeking to invalidate extradition paperwork because it had been signed by Whitmer, records show.
Higgins is one of 14 men charged with a variety of felonies in state and federal courts, from conspiracy and supporting terrorism, to weapons charges, following an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Michigan State Police.
Prosecutors previously said the group had surveilled Whitmer's vacation home in Elk Rapids, later hatching a plan to kidnap the governor after creating a diversion by detonating a bomb beneath a nearby bridge.
Once abducted, the plan involved taking Whitmer to Wisconsin for a "mock trial" over what the men told undercover agents and confidential informants were unconstitutional abuses of power, according to investigators.
The men, some of whom prosecutors said were aligned with the Wolverine Watchmen militia and the Michigan Liberty Militia, were reportedly upset by the governor's executive orders signed during the pandemic, records show.
Details of the plot were made public during an October press conference after a 15-page affidavit by FBI Special Agent Richard J. Trask II was filed in U.S. District court.
The prosecution of four men previously charged in Antrim County as part of the same investigation — Michael Null, William Null, Eric Molitor and Shawn Fix — has been repeatedly delayed, either because of precautions related to COVID-19 or because their attorneys said they needed more time to prepare, as previously reported.
Each face counts of providing material support for a terrorist act and a felony firearms charge, court records show.
A protective order signed by 86th District Court Chief Judge Michael S. Stepka precludes defense attorneys, or Attorney General Dana Nessel — whose staff is prosecuting the case — from speaking publicly about it.
Email, letters, text messages, photos or audio and video recordings not already publicly available are also under seal unless their release is authorized by the court, the order — signed by the judge Oct. 23 — states.
In April, Stepka denied a request by the Null brothers to drop GPS tracking from their pre-trial bond conditions.
Stepka said one purpose of the tether was to assure the Nulls were having no contact with militia groups, and he specifically named the Wolverine Watchmen and the Michigan Liberty Militia.
Higgins will also be fitted with a GPS tether as a condition of bond, set at 10 percent of $100,000. He is also barred from having contact with Whitmer, any of her family members, any co-defendant or members of any militia group.
Higgins was cleared to return to Wisconsin, but must appear in Michigan for an in-person preliminary exam, which has yet to be scheduled, Kastys said.
"It is my understanding that the preliminary exams are on hold waiting for the court to open up under the COVID rules so an in-person exam can be held," she said. "You must return to the State of Michigan at that time."