2 men convicted in plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Whitmer

Published 3:51 pm Tuesday, August 23, 2022

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A jury on Tuesday convicted two men of conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2020, delivering swift verdicts in a plot that was broken up by the FBI and described as a rallying cry for a U.S. civil war by anti-government extremists.

The result was a big victory for the U.S. Justice Department. A different jury just four months ago couldn’t reach unanimous decisions on Adam Fox or Barry Croft Jr. but acquitted two other men, a stunning conclusion that led to a second trial.

Their arrests nearly two years ago came at an extremely tense time: the volatile homestretch of the election between Joe Biden and then-President Donald Trump playing out against a backdrop of armed protests over COVID-19 restrictions, especially in Michigan.

Jury selection in the retrial of Fox and Croft coincidentally occurred a day after FBI agents searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate for documents, putting the agency in headlines at the same time that the judge was trying to detect any biases about law enforcement in the jury pool.

Fox and Croft were convicted Tuesday of two counts of conspiracy related to the kidnapping scheme and attempts to use a weapon of mass destruction. Prosecutors said they wanted to blow up a bridge to disrupt police if the abduction could be pulled off at Whitmer’s vacation home.

Croft, 46, a trucker from Bear, Delaware, was also convicted of another explosives charge. The jury deliberated for roughly eight hours over two days.

“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 will not succeed,” said Whitmer, a Democrat, who turned 51 years old on Tuesday.

“But we must also take a hard look at the status of our politics,” she added. “Plots against public officials and threats to the FBI are a disturbing extension of radicalized domestic terrorism that festers in our nation, threatening the very foundation of our republic.”

Law enforcement officials across the country have been warning about an increase in threats and the potential for violence against agents or buildings.

Fox and Croft, who face sentences of up to life in prison, just stared at the jury as the verdicts were read. Defense attorney Christopher Gibbons shook his head while another defense lawyer, Joshua Blanchard, removed his glasses.

Jurors declined to speak to reporters.

“It’s been a good fight. We were hoping for a different outcome,” Gibbons said.

During closing arguments Monday, a prosecutor had a blunt message: No one can strap on an AR-15 rifle and body armor and snatch a governor.

“But that wasn’t the defendants’ ultimate goal,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler said.