FBI agent at center of Whitmer kidnap probe assaulted wife after swingers' party, authorities say

Oralandar Brand-Williams | The Detroit News | 6:02 pm EDT July 21, 2021

An FBI agent at the center of the investigation into the plot to kidnap and kill Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is accused of smashing his wife's head against a nightstand and choking her after a dispute stemming from their attendance at a swingers' party, according to court records.

Special Agent Richard Trask, 39, of Kalamazoo, was charged Monday with assault with intent to do great bodily harm, less than murder following the alleged incident Sunday.

An affidavit filed by the Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Office in Kalamazoo County District Court said Trask's wife had bloody lacerations to the right side of her head and "blood all over chest, clothing arms and hand," as well as "severe" bruising to her neck and throat.

She told police she and her husband had several drinks at a swingers' party held at a hotel in the 2700 block of S. 11 Street in Oshtemo Township, just west of Kalamazoo, according to the affidavit. She added that she did not like the party and they argued about it on the way home. 

FBI Special Agent Richard Trask, 39, of Kalamazoo, was charged Monday with assault with intent to do great bodily harm, less than murder following an incident Sunday.
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Once they arrived home, Trask got on top of her in their bed and "then grabbed the side of her head and smashed it several times on the nightstand," according to the affidavit.

She attempted to grab his beard to free herself, and he began to choke her around the neck and throat with both hands, according to the affidavit. She ultimately grabbed Trask's testicles, which ended the altercation, the document notes, and Trask left the Oshtemo Township home in her vehicle. 

►Read moreJudge releases video, photos the Whitmer kidnap plot defense didn't want public to see

Trask, who was tracked down in the parking lot of a supermarket on Main Street in Oshtemo Township, refused to give a statement about the incident after he was read his Miranda rights, according to the affidavit.

Trask, 39, has worked for the FBI since 2011 and served as the FBI's public face in the Whitmer case, testifying in federal court about the investigation. He has worked on cases involving espionage, terrorism and domestic extremism investigations.

The FBI on Wednesday declined to comment. FBI spokeswoman Mara Schneider on Monday said the bureau is cooperating with the prosecutor's office. Trask's job status was unclear.

"In accordance with FBI policy, the incident is subject to internal review, and I cannot comment further at this time," she said in a statement.

Trask was released on a $10,000 personal recognizance bond following an arraignment in 8th District Court in Kalamazoo and faces a charge punishable by up to 10 years in prison. As part of his bond conditions, he is prohibited from possessing a firearm.

Aside from his FBI duties, Trask opened a gym at his rural property in Oshtemo Township near Kalamazoo and offers CrossFit training, according to social media posts and state business filings. He filed state paperwork for BCB Health & Wellness last year and maintains an active Instagram account showing him exercising, flexing and posing shirtless.

Trask's arrest comes at a critical juncture in the criminal case against five men charged in federal court with plotting to kidnap Whitmer. Defense lawyers last week leveled a broad attack on the foundation of the high-profile case and suggested a second FBI agent was trying to sabotage defense teams.

“It’s the last thing you want for a major case like this,” said Andrew Arena, former special agent in charge of the FBI’s Detroit office. “Any time you give the defense any ammunition it's not good.”

The internal review would include an investigation by FBI internal affairs, Arena said.

“Depending on the severity, it could be a suspension until things are ironed out one way or another,” Arena said.

Trask was arrested one week after defense lawyers provided the clearest view of how they plan to attack the kidnapping plot case.

Court filings revealed a defense strategy that involves suppressing evidence, attacking the work of FBI agents and claiming FBI informants entrapped men accused in the conspiracy. Five men are awaiting an October trial in federal court in Grand Rapids, though one defendant has asked U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker to move the trial out of Michigan, arguing media conduct and coverage had "corrupted the potential trial atmosphere."

The arrest is the second potential problem in the case to emerge in recent months.

In March, prosecutors indicted an informant who sources say helped the FBI infiltrate the alleged conspiracy, a rare legal development. The indictment of Wisconsin resident Stephen Robeson after a prolonged period of cooperation suggests the relationship between Robeson and the FBI is destroyed and that prosecutors do not plan on using him at trial, legal experts said.

But defense lawyers can try to call him as a witness and attack Robeson's credibility.

Trask testified in federal court in January against Delaware resident Barry Croft, an accused plotter who is portrayed as the group’s bomb maker. Trask identified Croft as the national leader of the 3 Percenters, a small militia that participated in the Jan. 6 insurgence at the U.S. Capitol.

During the court hearing, Trask helped provide context about multiple undercover recordings that included Croft. At the time, prosecutors wanted Croft held without bond, saying he was a violent extremist.

Defense lawyers have portrayed their clients as tough talkers who were exercising their First Amendment rights who never carried out any kidnapping plot.

bwilliams@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @oralandar_dn

Originally Published 11:54 am EDT July 21, 2021
Updated 6:02 pm EDT July 21, 2021
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