Federal prosecutors will not use testimony from one of the lead FBI agents in the Gov. Gretchen Whitmer kidnapping conspiracy case who was charged with beating his wife following a swingers party and who ranted about Donald Trump on social media, calling the president a douchebag and “piece of s—.”
Prosecutors revealed the decision to drop FBI Special Agent Richard Trask from the high-profile case this week, said lawyer Michael Hills, who represents accused kidnap plotter Brandon Caserta of Canton Township. Hills divulged the decision during a hearing in federal court in Grand Rapids while pursuing evidence ahead of an October trial during which five men face various charges, including kidnapping and weapons of mass destruction conspiracies.
Hills also revealed that prosecutors this week gave defense lawyers social media posts from Trask, including one in which Trask used profanity to refer to Trump in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The March 28, 2020, post included a photo of Whitmer.
“If you still support our piece of s— president you can f— off,” the post reads. “As someone whose wife works in the hospital I hope you burn in hell along with your douchebag f—- reality tv star. His ego is going to kill a lot of people and anyone who supports that is a dumbass. This is what you get when you elect an egotistica/narcissistic (sic) maniac to the top office. He needs people to be nice to him or he won’t help. F— you douche.”
Trask is a key figure in the investigation but his July arrest has complicated one of the most closely watched cases of violent extremism that has increasingly focused on allegations of wrongdoing by investigators.
“They’re slicing him out,” Hills told U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally Berens during the hearing Thursday. “They’re not calling him.”
Defense lawyers, however, can pursue essentially subpoenaing him to testify during the trial.
An FBI spokeswoman has previously said that until finishing an internal review that Trask would not be working on any FBI matters.
Trask’s employment status with the FBI has been unclear since his arrest. As part of his bond conditions, Trask is prohibited from possessing a gun, which legal experts have said precludes him from much of his job duties.
There are at least two other FBI agents in the Whitmer kidnapping case. Defense lawyers have attacked the conduct of one of those agents, FBI Special Agent Henrik Impola, who is captured on a recording talking about creating “disarray and chaos” for defense lawyers, whom he labeled “paid liars.”
Berens on Thursday denied requests from defense lawyers to access FBI files on as many as 12 informants who helped thwart what the government described as an alleged plot to kidnap and harm Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Lawyers want information about the informants’ qualifications and vetting, details about their performance, communications with agents and “instructions and admonishments they received.”
The request came amid questions about agent misconduct and whether informants were driving the alleged conspiracy and suggesting crimes to be committed by five men awaiting trial in October.
Defense lawyers are contesting evidence gathered in a high-profile case that has focused attention on violent anti-government extremism in Michigan amid fallout from lockdown orders aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19.
Caserta’s lawyer suggested an FBI informant entrapped the men and has requested access to the informant’s phone to determine the informant’s role in encouraging the conspiracy and persuading others to commit crimes.
The request came amid a flurry of motions that provided a view into defense strategy that involves suppressing evidence, attacking the work of FBI agents and claiming FBI informants entrapped men accused in the conspiracy.
The magistrate Thursday said prosecutors already are required to disclose exculpatory and impeachment evidence. There is no reason to go beyond that requirement and give full access to phones used during the kidnapping conspiracy investigation, Berens said.
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