Jury finds two men guilty of attempting to kidnap Michigan governor
Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. were found guilty by a jury Tuesday of conspiring to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in 2020. Prosecutors described the defendants as anti-government extremists who thus wanted to provoke a civil war in the United States.
Fox and Croft Jr. were also found guilty of conspiring to obtain a weapon of mass destruction, a bomb with which they intended to blow up a bridge and prevent police from arriving at Gretchen Whitmer’s country residence.
Croft, 46, a Delaware trucker, was also found guilty of using explosives. The jury deliberated on the verdict for about eight hours over two days.
The jury could not reach a unanimous verdict against both defendants in April. Two other men suspected of preparing to kidnap Whitmer were acquitted, while two others pleaded guilty and cooperated with prosecutors.
The jury’s decision was a victory for the U.S. Department of Justice.
“You can’t just take an AR-15 rifle, put on a bulletproof vest and kidnap the governor,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler told the jury. – But that was not the defendants’ ultimate goal. They wanted to provoke a second civil war in the United States, a second American revolution … And they wanted to do it long before their choice fell on Governor Whitmer.”
The investigation began when Army veteran Dan Chappell, who had joined a paramilitary group in Michigan, was alarmed by talk of a planned murder of policemen. He agreed to become an FBI informant and spent the summer of 2020 working closely with Fox and other members of the group, secretly recording their conversations and participating in practice shootings in Wisconsin and Michigan.
The FBI added two more informants and two undercover agents to the group. Gretchen Whitmer had many grievances against members of the group because of restrictions imposed by Michigan’s governor in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fox, Croft, and other members of the gang, accompanied by FBI operatives, traveled to northern Michigan to inspect Whitmer’s country residence and the bridge they intended to blow up.
Defense attorneys tried to place the blame on the FBI, repeatedly emphasizing during cross-examination of witnesses and during closing arguments that federal agents were present at every important event and lured the defendants into a trap.
Fox and Croft, they said, are “big talkers” who were guilty only of exercising their right to say unflattering things about Whitmer and authorities in general.
“This is not Russia. That’s not how our country works,” Croft’s attorney Joshua Blanchard told the jury. – You can’t suspect someone of committing a crime because you don’t like what they say if you don’t like their ideology.”
Fox’s attorney, Christopher Gibbons, said the FBI should not be in the business of creating a “domestic terrorist” problem.
Whitmer, a member of the Democratic Party, accused then-President Donald Trump of stoking public distrust over restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic and of refusing to condemn right-wing extremist groups.
The governor said over the weekend that she was not following the second trial, but remained concerned about the “violent rhetoric” in American society.