Prosecutors urge jury to convict 2 men in Gov. Whitmer plot

0
13

Two men charged with conspiring to kidnap Michigan’s governor wanted to grab Gretchen Whitmer and hang her, prosecutors said during a stark closing argument Monday as the government tried for a second time to get convictions in an alleged plot to trigger a revolution in 2020.

“These defendants were outside a woman’s house in the middle of the night with night-vision goggles and guns and a plan to kidnap her,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler said. “And they made a real bomb. That’s far enough, isn’t it?”

After a nine-day trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler repeatedly urged jurors to also focus on what Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. were saying months before the FBI placed undercover agents and informants inside the group that summer.

It was Kessler’s effort to get the jury to reject a defense argument that Fox and Croft were entrapped by the government every step of the way.

“’Which governor is going to be dragged off and hung for treason first?’” Kessler said, quoting Croft’s own words.

“Any governor would do,” Kessler said. “By the end of June, he was telling people Michigan’s government is a target of opportunity, and God knows the governor needs to be hung. He didn’t just want to kidnap her. He wanted to have his own trial and execute her.”

The ultimate goal: a second American Revolution, “something called the boogaloo,” the prosecutor said.

Fox and Croft are on trial for a second time in Grand Rapids, Michigan, after a jury in April couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict but acquitted two other men.

The jury heard secretly recorded conversations and read violent social media posts. Two undercover agents and an informant testified for hours, explaining how the men trained in Wisconsin and Michigan and visited Elk Rapids to see Whitmer’s home and a nearby bridge that could be blown up.

The “strongest witnesses in the whole case” were the defendants’ own words, Kessler told the jury.

Other critical witnesses: Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks, who pleaded guilty, and informant Dan Chappel, an Army veteran who said he went to the FBI after joining a Michigan paramilitary group and hearing plans to kill police.

Fox, Croft and their allies were furious about COVID-19 restrictions and generally disgusted by government, according to trial evidence.

Defense lawyers, however, say Fox and Croft were a bumbling, foul-mouthed, marijuana-smoking pair exercising free speech and incapable of leading anything as extraordinary as an abduction of a public official. They say FBI agents and informants fed their outrage and pulled them into their web.

Croft, 46, is from Bear, Delaware. Fox, 39, was living in the basement of a vacuum shop in the Grand Rapids area.

Whitmer, a Democrat, has blamed then-President Donald Trump for stoking mistrust and fomenting anger over coronavirus restrictions and refusing to condemn hate groups and right-wing extremists like those charged in the plot.

Over the weekend, she said she hasn’t been following the second trial but remains concerned about “violent rhetoric in this country.”

“This is a dangerous trend that is happening,” Whitmer said at the Michigan Democratic Party’s convention in Lansing. “We cannot let it become normalized and I do hope that anyone that’s out there plotting to hurt their fellow Americans is held accountable.”

Trump recently called the kidnapping plan a “fake deal.”

The Justice Department charged Croft, Fox and four other men while Trump was in office. The second trial occurred while the FBI has been under scrutiny by his right-wing supporters, especially after a search for documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate.

Law enforcement officials across the country are warning about an increase in threats and the potential for violent attacks on agents or buildings.

———

Find the AP’s full coverage of the kidnapping plot trial: https://apnews.com/hub/whitmer-kidnap-plot-trial

———

Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwritez