'Chilling' threats to police cited in denying bond to man accused in kidnap plot

Brandon Caserta was recorded saying he wanted to take out as many police officers as possible, referring to them as "government thugs"


By Paul Egan and Tresa Baldas
Detroit Free Press

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Of the six men accused by federal officials of conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Brandon Caserta was the only one who did not participate in two surveillance operations conducted at Whitmer's northern Michigan cottage.

But a federal judge on Tuesday cited Brandon Caserta's "chilling" threats against police officers as a major reason for denying him bond after a detention hearing in federal court in Grand Rapids.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the state during a speech in Lansing, Mich., Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. (Michigan Office of the Governor via AP)
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the state during a speech in Lansing, Mich., Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. (Michigan Office of the Governor via AP)

Brandon Caserta, 32, of Canton, was the last of three defendants to have a bond hearing Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally Berens. She denied bond for all three. Two more bond hearings are expected in Grand Rapids Friday. A sixth defendant is still in Delaware.

Caserta was enraged by a Sept. 19 police traffic stop near his home, during which he received a ticket for lacking a proper license or insurance, assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler told the court.

Using encrypted messages, he later told his co-conspirators that he had learned the names of the officers involved, knew they worked nights, and was considering conducting reconnaissance on them. "I could easily tap them," he reportedly said in an apparent reference to killing them.

Still later, Caserta recorded and shared a video, shared in court, in which he said he wanted to take out as many police officers as possible, referring to them as "motherf------s," and "government thugs."

"I'm sick of being robbed and enslaved by the state," Caserta said in the video.

Berens said the video was "really very chilling," and "really makes it impossible to require a probation officer to supervise Mr. Caserta, when there is that overt threat to law enforcement officers."

Caserta shrugged his shoulders, looking at his aunt and step-brother seated in the courtroom, as he was led away.

Michael Darragh Hills, Caserta's Kalamazoo attorney, said the threats were rhetorical and never acted on.

He said Caserta has a steady job and housing and strong family ties.

According to an FBI affidavit filed in the case, Caserta was ready for violence in the weeks before he was arrested in the kidnapping case.

“When the time comes there will be no need to try and strike fear through presence. The fear will be manifested through bullets,” Caserta said on Sept. 17 in an encrypted group chat that included four other alleged coconspirators and a confidential FBI source,

©2020 the Detroit Free Press

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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