GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A jury on Tuesday convicted two men of conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer 2020. This was a quick victory for the prosecutors in an operation that was stopped by FBI agents and described by them as a rallying cry against a U.S. Civil War by anti-government extremists.
Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. were also found guilty of conspiring to obtain a weapon of mass destruction, namely a bomb to blow up a bridge and stymie police if the kidnapping could be pulled off at Whitmer’s vacation home.
Croft (46), a Bear trucker, Delaware was also convicted on another explosives offense. Over two days, the jury deliberated for eight hours.
It was the second trial for the pair after a jury in April couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict after five days. The prosecution obtained the testimony of two additional men, who were also acquitted.
Following the disappointing mixed result last spring, this was a major win for U.S. Justice Department.
“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,” said Whitmer, a Democrat.
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“But we must also take a hard look at the status of our politics,” she added. “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.”
Monday’s closing arguments saw a prosecution witness deliver a clear message to the court: Nobody can take a governor and put on an AR-15 rifle with body armor.
“But that wasn’t the defendants’ ultimate goal,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler said. “They wanted to set off a second American civil war, a second American Revolution, something that they call the boogaloo. They wanted it to go on for quite some time, before they finally settled on Gov. Whitmer.”
After Dan Chappel, an Army veteran joined a Michigan paramilitary organization and was alarmed by talk of killing police officers, the investigation started. He agreed to become an FBI informant and spent the summer of 2020 getting close to Fox and others, secretly recording conversations and participating in drills at “shoot houses” in Wisconsin and Michigan.
It was turned into a large domestic terrorist case by the FBI with two additional informants and two other undercover agents. The evidence showed that the group was vocal about concerns, especially regarding Whitmer’s COVID-19 restrictions.
Fox, Croft and others, accompanied by the government operatives, traveled to northern Michigan to see Whitmer’s vacation home at night and a bridge that could be destroyed.
In an attempt to prosecute the FBI, defense lawyers repeatedly stressed during cross-examination of witnesses that federal agents were present at each crucial event and had trapped the men.
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Fox and Croft, they said, were “big talkers” who liked to smoke marijuana and were guilty of nothing but exercising their right to say vile things about Whitmer and government.
“This isn’t Russia. This isn’t how our country works,” Croft attorney Joshua Blanchard told jurors. “You don’t get to suspect that someone might commit a crime because you don’t like things that they say, that you don’t like their ideologies.”
Fox attorney Christopher Gibbons said the FBI isn’t supposed to create “domestic terrorists.” He described Fox as poor and living in the basement of a Grand Rapids-area vacuum shop, which was a site for meetings with Chappel and an agent.
Whitmer blamed Trump, the former President of the United States for inciting mistrust and anger about coronavirus regulations and refusing condemnation to hate groups and right-wing extremists such as those who were charged with plotting.
Trump recently called the kidnapping plan a “fake deal.”
White was based in Detroit.
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