The FBI agent who was the public face of the investigation into the alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer pleaded no contest Monday to a misdemeanor charge of assaulting his wife earlier this year.
Richard Trask, who was fired from the FBI after the July 18 incident, was sentenced to time served — two days in jail following his arrest in a grocery store parking lot after he fought with his wife in their home at the end of a night that featured a visit to a swingers party.
Trask’s wife, appearing in Kalamazoo County court via Zoom, read a statement in which she speculated that her husband might have been drugged with the date rape drug GHB at the party or had an adverse reaction to mixing prednisone and alcohol. “This man has served and protected you for the past 20 years and the prosecution has chosen to crucify him unnecessarily,” she told the judge.
In his own statement, also delivered via Zoom, Trask told the court, “I cannot recall any details of the night but I do take responsibility.” He added, “As a result of this situation, I’ve lost the only career I’ve ever known.”
Trask’s legal troubles are among many complications for federal prosecutors pursuing kidnapping conspiracy charges against five men accused of plotting to spirit Whitmer away from her vacation home last fall.
Trask was the agent who signed the affidavit that supported the men’s arrest on Oct. 7, 2020, and he later testified in federal court in favor of keeping the men locked up. Because he no longer works at the bureau, the government will no longer call on him to testify at the trial in the case, scheduled to begin March 8.
Two other FBI agents central to the case, Jayson Chambers and Henrik Impola, will also not be on the Justice Department’s witness lists. They were the handling agents for a key informant, known as “Dan,” who infiltrated an armed extremist group whose members developed the plot.
In August, federal prosecutors said that Chambers would not be a witness at trial. The announcement came five days after BuzzFeed News revealed that he had incorporated a security business in 2019 that was linked to an internet troll.
Then on Friday, prosecutors said that Impola, who has been accused of perjury in an unrelated case, would not be called either. Although prosecutors have denied that the allegations have substance, the issue came up again in Michigan state court on Monday, where a hearing had been scheduled to review claims of entrapment by three defendants in a case closely tied to the kidnapping plot.
In addition to the five federal defendants, a sixth pleaded guilty in January and agreed to cooperate with the prosecution. Eight additional men have been charged in Michigan state court for providing material support to terrorism, for a total of 14. Both federal and state prosecutors deny they entrapped the men. “We believe we have proof beyond a reasonable doubt of their guilt and will be presenting it at trial,” Assistant Attorney General John Pallas stated in Jackson County court Monday.
But defense attorney Andrew Kirkpatrick, who represents Paul Bellar in the state case, said that the impeachment allegations against Impola could undermine the government’s case. “His credibility is absolutely at issue with this court regarding any entrapment motions,” Kirkpatrick told Judge Thomas Wilson. He and attorneys for two other defendants said that in light of Friday’s news, Impola would not be a witness and they needed additional time to review information about the government’s internal inquiry into the perjury claim.
Kirkpatrick said he would subpoena the FBI for that information, and at his request, Jackson County judge Thomas Wilson granted an adjournment on the entrapment issue until late February.
Impola referred requests for comment last week to the FBI, which declined to comment.
In the same hearing, Wilson denied a motion by the Michigan attorney general to reinstate charges against Bellar and two other defendants of making terrorist threats. Those charges had been dismissed by a lower court in March.
Wilson similarly rejected a request by the defense to overrule the district court and dismiss all charges, while granting a request to reduce bond for Joseph Morrison, the founder of the organized militant group Wolverine Watchmen, to $5,000 from $150,000. Morrison is expected to be released before Christmas. He has been in jail for 438 days.