GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A jury on Tuesday convicted two men of plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2020, a quick victory for prosecutors in a plot that was busted by the FBI and described as a rallying cry for a U.S. civil war by anti-government extremists.
Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. were also found guilty of conspiracy to obtain a weapon of mass destruction, namely a bomb to blow up a bridge and stop the police if the kidnapping could be carried out at Whitmer’s vacation home.
Croft, 46, a truck driver from Bear, Delaware, was also convicted of another explosives charge. The jury deliberated for about eight hours over two days.
It was the couple’s second trial after jurors in April failed to reach a unanimous verdict after five days. Two other men were acquitted and two others pleaded guilty and testified for the prosecution.
The result was a big win for the US Department of Justice after a shockingly mixed result last spring.
“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’re not going to make it,” said Whitmer, a Democrat.
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“But we also need to take a hard look at the state of our politics,” she added. “The plots against government officials and the threats against the FBI are a disturbing extension of the radicalized domestic terrorism that smoulders in our nation, threatening the very foundation of our republic.”
During closing arguments Monday, a prosecutor had a stark message: No one can put on an AR-15 rifle and a bulletproof vest and grab a governor.
“But that was not the ultimate goal of the defendants,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler said. “They wanted to cause a second American civil war, a second American revolution, something they call a boogaloo. And they wanted to do it for a long time before they settled on Governor Whitmer.
The investigation begins when Army veteran Dan Chappell joins a paramilitary group in Michigan and becomes alarmed when he hears talk of police killings. He agreed to become an FBI informant and spent the summer of 2020 cozying up to Fox and others, secretly recording conversations and participating in “shooting house” training in Wisconsin and Michigan.
The FBI turned it into a major domestic terrorism case with two more informants and two undercover agents brought into the fold. The evidence shows that the group has many problems, especially regarding the COVID-19 restrictions imposed by Whitmer at the beginning of the pandemic.
Fox, Croft and others, accompanied by government officials, travel to northern Michigan to see Whitmer’s vacation home at night and a bridge that could be destroyed.
Defense attorneys tried to put the FBI on trial, repeatedly stressing through cross-examination of witnesses and during closing arguments that federal players were present at every major event and had ensnared 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 nasty things about Whitmer and the government.
“This is not Russia. This is not the way our country works,” Croft’s attorney Joshua Blanchard told jurors. “You can’t suspect that someone might commit a crime because you don’t like the things they say you don’t like their ideologies.”
Fox’s attorney, Christopher Gibbons, said the FBI should not be creating “domestic terrorists.” He described Fox as poor and living in the basement of a vacuum store in the Grand Rapids area, which was a meeting place for Chappell and an agent.
Whitmer blamed then-President Donald Trump for stoking mistrust and anger coronavirus restrictions and a refusal to condemn hate groups and right-wing extremists like those accused of the plot.
Trump recently called the kidnapping plan a “bogus deal.”
White reported from Detroit.
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