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Jury gets case of 4 charged in plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer

Foiled plot to overthrow Michigan government
Former FBI special agent on the foiled plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer 13:42

The case of four men accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in 2020 is in the hands of the jury Friday, following the end of closing arguments. Adam Fox, Barry Croft Jr., Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta are charged with conspiracy in the case, in which two other defendants have already pleaded guilty and cooperated with investigators. Three of the men also face weapons charges.

Deliberations will start Monday.

During the 15-day trial in federal court in Grand Rapids, Michigan, prosecutors alleged that the group was angry over COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the Democratic governor and that the suspects were anti-government extremists who sought to ignite a civil war. 

L-R: Brandon Caserta, Barry Croft, Adam Dean Fox, and Daniel Harris.  Kent County Sheriff, Delaware Department of Justice via AP

The men were arrested in October 2020 amid talk of raising $4,000 for an explosive that could blow up a bridge and stymie police after a kidnapping, according to evidence presented at trial. Fox twice traveled to northern Michigan to scout the area, once with Croft and undercover agents.

"They were filled with rage," Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler told jurors in closing arguments Friday. "They were paranoid because they knew what they were doing was wrong and they feared they could be caught."

Only one defendant, Harris, chose to testify in his own defense. The four men denied any scheme to seize Whitmer at her vacation home. Defense attorneys insist they were under the spell of informants and agents who got them to say and do violent, provocative things.

Fox's attorney, Christopher Gibbons, said Fox was a hapless man living in the basement of a Grand Rapids-area vacuum shop, smoking marijuana whenever possible and totally incapable of leading the wild plot.

"The plan was utter nonsense. It wasn't real to Adam Fox. He was LARPing," Gibbons said, using an acronym for live action role playing. "Adam Fox is usually impaired. He's just playing his game. ... A person cannot accidentally enter into a conspiracy."

Lawyers for Harris and Caserta emphasized that neither man went to Elk Rapids with Croft and Fox to surveil Whitmer's home.

Defense attorney Julia Kelly said Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks, who both testified against the group, are "liars," though they pleaded guilty and are facing prison.

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