GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Two anti-government extremists sought to spark a “second American revolution” by kidnapping Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a prosecutor told jurors Wednesday as the government got a second opportunity to get convictions in an alleged plot to shock the country into chaos before the 2020 election.
Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. are on trial for a second time, four months after a jury couldn't reach a unanimous verdict while acquitting two other men.
The jury will hear competing themes. Prosecutors again will present secretly recorded conversations and video, text messages and social media posts to show that a band of rebels was serious about snatching the Democratic governor.
Defense attorneys, however, insist there was no actual conspiracy. They will attack the motivations of undercover FBI agents and informants who got inside the group and built the investigation.
Fox, 39, lived in the Grand Rapids area and Croft, 46, is from Bear, Delaware. They regularly communicated with other extremists who were angry with Whitmer and various public officials over COVID-19 restrictions.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher O'Connor said the seeds were planted well ahead of the pandemic.
Before Fox and Croft “planned and trained to kidnap the governor of Michigan, they called for a second American revolution,” O'Connor told jurors. “They wanted to violently overthrow elected government officials because they believed those officials were tyrants who were constantly violating their rights.
“Barry Croft believed all it would take to start that revolution was to hang a governor,” the prosecutor said. “That was a call to action in early 2020. ... His promise to elected government officials, the tyrants: expect us.”
A jury was selected Tuesday after some people were dismissed for health reasons or for political beliefs they couldn’t set aside.
“It’s not disqualifying to have views one way or the other,” U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker told the pool. “It’s disqualifying if the views become more important than what the law or the evidence is.”
Fox and Croft are charged with two counts of conspiracy. Croft faces a third weapons-related charge.
The plot to kidnap Whitmer followed training in Wisconsin and Michigan and two trips to scout her second home in northern Michigan, O'Connor said.
Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta were found not guilty in April. Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks pleaded guilty and will testify again for prosecutors.
Whitmer 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. Democrat Joe Biden sought to tie Trump to the plot as well, pointing to the president’s tweet in earlier in 2020 to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!”
White reported from Detroit. Cappelletti is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
Find AP’s full coverage of the Whitmer kidnap plot trial at: https://apnews.com/hub/whitmer-kidnap-plot-trial
Joey Cappelletti And Ed White, The Associated Press