Jury hears man discuss plan to kidnap Michigan Governor Whitmer


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Prosecutors in the trial of four men charged with conspiring to kidnap the governor of Michigan.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Prosecutors in the trial of four men charged with a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer released a secret audio recording Thursday for jurors in which one of the men specifically discusses a plan to kidnap the Democrat.

In the recording, made by a government informant at a mid-July 2020 meeting in Wisconsin, Barry Croft Jr. describes the possibility of using explosives to “rain” fire on US forces. order “with a standby team” to remove Whitmer.

He adds without providing details that it should be “a quick and precise take” from the governor.

In another recording made by the same informant, jurors heard the sound of an explosives test Croft was conducting. He was later heard talking almost giddily about the damage he could cause, saying it would be “devastating”.

Prosecutors say the men – Croft, Adam Fox, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta – planned to snatch Whitmer from her Michigan vacation home because they were angry at the pandemic restrictions she had imposed. They also planned to blow up a nearby bridge to slow the police response.

The audio played in the federal courtroom in Grand Rapids, Michigan, marked the first time the jury heard from a defendant speaking specifically about the Whitmer kidnapping. In other aired recordings, Croft and Fox mentioned Whitmer and talked enthusiastically about taking actions that would terrorize people.

“I’m going to strike soon,” Croft is heard saying during what prosecutors say was a pivotal June 6, 2020 meeting of anti-government activists in Ohio. ” I will terrorize people. Good people. The people who terrorized my people.

A short time later, Fox is also heard on an audio recording recorded by an FBI informant, tossing around and telling the group, “You have to take hostages. This is your value.

FBI agent Todd Reineck testified earlier Thursday that the men were arrested in the fall of 2020 because there was “a real concern that they might get real live explosives.” He also testified about the men’s social media posts and messages, some of which were posted months before any contact from FBI agents or informants.

I want to make formal charges against our governor and the tyrants of our state. …Let’s do something … bold,” Fox said in a December 2019 Facebook video. In it, Fox is seen intermittently laughing and cursing at the government while waving two AR-style assault rifles in front of a camera.

Fox attorney Christopher Gibbons questioned Reineck about the process of paying informants in cash, their vetting before undercover work, and the choice of electronic devices they used. Reineck also admitted under questioning by Gibbons that Fox participated in legal protests at the Michigan Capitol.

During opening statements wednesdaydefense attorneys said the FBI tricked the men into participating in a conspiracy to kidnap Whitmer and that U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker allowed them to answer an entrapment defense.

Entrapment is a high risk defense because it is a concession that crimes may have been committed.

Croft’s lawyer says informants secretly taped the men while virtually everyone was ‘stoned, completely mad’, leading to some fantastic ideas including using a kite to transport Whitmer.

“They knew it was crazy talk and not a plan,” Joshua Blanchard said of the FBI.

Harris’s attorney, Julia Kelly, said the former Marine liked an FBI informant called “Big Dan” because he introduced himself as a firearms training instructor.

“Big Dan was the leader,” she told the jurors. “How do I shoot out of a vehicle? Yeah, you’re gonna ask Big Dan. That’s what Daniel was looking for in the summer of 2020.”

Caserta attorney Michael Hills said attacking practice sessions in Michigan and Wisconsin were “Fed-sponsored events.”

But Assistant US Attorney Jonathan Roth said evidence would prove the defendants’ desire to commit acts of violence regardless of anything informants did or suggested, telling jurors the men were “willing and eager” and were preparing for the crime “long before” law enforcement got involved.

“If the defendant was already ready to commit the crime, it’s not a trap,” Roth said.

He described Fox and Croft as the masterminds of the plot and said the four wanted to create a “war zone here in Michigan”.

In one recording, Croft says Whitmer needs to be “suspended”. After Croft was arrested in October 2020 on the East Coast while making deliveries to his job as a truck driver, officers found a receipt worth $353 of what the FBI agent took. described as “mortar-like fireworks”, which he says could become a makeshift bomb if filled with pennies.

“They weren’t all-talking people,” Roth said. ” They were people who wanted to separate from people who were all talking.”

Two critical insiders, Ty Garbin and Kaleb Frankspleaded guilty to conspiracy and are expected to testify for the government.

In 2020, Whitmer was trading taunts with then-President Donald Trump about his administration’s response to COVID-19. His critics, meanwhile, regularly demonstrated at the Michigan Capitol, clogging the streets around the statehouse and legally carrying semi-automatic rifles into the building.

Whitmer, who is seeking re-election this year, rarely speaks publicly about the case and is not expected to attend the trial. She blamed Trump for stoking mistrust and fomenting anger over coronavirus restrictions and refusing to condemn hate groups and right-wing extremists like those accused in the conspiracy. She said he was also an accomplice in the deadly January 6 Capitol insurrection.


White reported from Detroit and Burnett reported from Chicago. Journalist John Flesher contributed from Traverse City, Michigan.


Find full AP coverage of the Whitmer kidnapping conspiracy trial at: https://apnews.com/hub/whitmer-kidnap-plot-trial

Michael Tarm, Ed White and Sara Burnett, Associated Press


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