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Jury finds two men guilty of planning to kidnap Michigan governor

The retrial took much less time than the first as federal prosecutors fine-tuned their arguments to show how close the duo came to carrying out a plan to capture the Democratic governor because they resented her leadership.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (CN) — Two men accused of plotting to kidnap Democratic Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer were found guilty Tuesday by a jury that deliberated less than a day following a mistrial in April.

Adam Fox of Wyoming, Michigan, and Barry Croft Jr. of Bear, Delaware, could face up to life in prison on charges of kidnapping conspiracy and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction. The historic trials in Grand Rapids federal court shined a light on the uptick of violent extremism in America.

Closing arguments concluded Monday and jurors able to reach a unanimous verdict quickly.

Whitmer released a statement Tuesday commending the jury's decision.

“Today’s verdicts prove that violence and threats have no place in our politics and those who seek to divide us will be held accountable. They will not succeed,” she said.   

The defendants were said to have been furious with Whitmer over Covid-19 restrictions and vowed to try her for treason. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher M. O’Connor argued the case started long before those restrictions were imposed in 2020, as police were watching for several years due to violent rhetoric from men who sought to trigger another American revolution.

“In the eyes of my God, I will die a fucking saint covered in blood,” he recited from a transcript of an alleged Fox recording.

Croft was accused of constructing homemade bombs that were filled with pennies for shrapnel.

O’Connor told the jury the government does not have to prove the men kidnapped Whitmer and stressed that if the defendants were already willing to do the crime, it’s not considered entrapment by undercover agents who recorded them.

“A conspiracy is simply an agreement to commit an illegal act…what you need to decide is did Adam Fox and Barry Croft agree with each other…to kidnap the governor,” the prosecutor said.

In April, alleged co-conspirator Daniel Harris of Lake Orion was found not guilty on all four charges against him and fellow defendant Brandon Caserta of Canton Township was acquitted of a single charge of kidnapping conspiracy.

The jury deliberated for a week for the first trial but could not come to a consensus about Fox and Croft.

“We’re still unable to reach a unanimous decision on several counts,” they wrote in a note to Chief U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker.

Christopher Gibbons of Gibbons & Boer, representing Fox, echoed his April opening statements on Aug. 10 when he said that Fox was simply a blowhard without a criminal record who was noticed by the FBI on Facebook for his views.

“No plan. No conspiracy. No crime. Not guilty,” he said.

Croft’s attorney Joshua Blanchard said that Croft was an outsider who was rarely included.

“It isn’t a crime in this country to say mean things, even about the FBI,” he said.

In April, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils R. Kessler told the previous jury that Fox led the group because he felt humiliated living in a basement and wanted to blame Whitmer. Kessler explained that Fox’s lust for weapons of mass destruction had grown so hot that the FBI was forced to step in.

In her statement, Whitmer also said similar threats would most likely not end with the conclusion of this sprawling case.

“We must also take a hard look at the status of our politics. Plots against public officials and threats to the FBI are a disturbing extension of radicalized domestic terrorism that festers in our nation, threatening the very foundation of our republic,” the governor warned.

Among the testimony from the first trial, jurors heard from several FBI agents as well as from one of the defendants himself.

FBI agent Timothy Bates, who was known as “Red” while undercover, testified about his contact with the accused and how he convinced them he had access to bomb-making materials. Bates said the explosives were coveted by Fox, who allegedly wanted to blow up a bridge near the governor’s home to slow the police response.

Ty Garbin, who pleaded guilty in January 2021, testified against the men on trial. He told the jurors what the “boogaloo” group represented. 

“The boogaloo is a movement … the foundation of it is basically we need a second Civil War, another revolution,” Garbin explained.

The sixth defendant, Franks, pleaded guilty to kidnapping conspiracy during a hearing on Feb. 9.

Whitmer said she would not be deterred from her political agenda.

“I ran for office because I love my fellow Michiganders and my home state with all my heart. I always will. I cannot—I will not—let extremists get in the way of the work we do," she said. "They will never break my unwavering faith in the goodness and decency of our people.” 

Categories / Criminal, Government, Politics, Regional, Trials

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