The suspects in the kidnapping plot claim the FBI set them up.
A Michigan jury found Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. guilty of conspiring to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer over the COVID-19 lockdowns.
The jury also convicted the two men of conspiring to obtain a weapon of mass destruction. From The Detroit Free Press:
The defense long argued that this was a case of entrapment, that the defendants were merely tough-talking potheads who were venting about their government, and that rogue FBI agents and informants set them up.
The prosecution, however, argued the men did a lot more than talk — they took action to carry out their plan, including casing Whitmer’s vacation home twice, building explosives, holding secret meetings, and practicing breaking-and-entering drills in shoot-houses they built that mimicked her cottage.
In the end, the jury sided with the government, delivering a major victory not only to the prosecutors, but to the FBI as the agency’s reputation came under assault during this trial, with the defense repeatedly blasting agents an informants, calling them liars and manipulators with overreaching powers.
“The defendants in this case believed that their antigovernment views justified violence. Today’s verdict is a clear example that they were wrong in that assessment,” said Special Agent in Charge David Porter, who oversees the FBI office in Grand Rapids.
This was the second trial for Fox and Croft. The first jury could not reach a unanimous vote.
Another jury acquitted two men. Two other men pleaded guilty and testified for the prosecutors.
The entrapment accusation came out in July 2021 by BuzzFeed of all places. The outlet reviewed the evidence and found out that at least 12 of the FBI confidential informants had a larger role in the plot:
An examination of the case by BuzzFeed News also reveals that some of those informants, acting under the direction of the FBI, played a far larger role than has previously been reported. Working in secret, they did more than just passively observe and report on the actions of the suspects. Instead, they had a hand in nearly every aspect of the alleged plot, starting with its inception. The extent of their involvement raises questions as to whether there would have even been a conspiracy without them.
A longtime government informant from Wisconsin, for example, helped organize a series of meetings around the country where many of the alleged plotters first met one another and the earliest notions of a plan took root, some of those people say. The Wisconsin informant even paid for some hotel rooms and food as an incentive to get people to come.
The Iraq War vet, for his part, became so deeply enmeshed in a Michigan militant group that he rose to become its second-in-command, encouraging members to collaborate with other potential suspects and paying for their transportation to meetings. He prodded the alleged mastermind of the kidnapping plot to advance his plan, then baited the trap that led to the arrest.
The defendants said, “their talk never rose beyond the level of fantasy and they never intended to harm anyone.” They accuse the government of targeting them due to their political views:
Although they have not denied participating in training events, attending meetings, and communicating with other defendants, they claim that no actual conspiracy to kidnap the governor ever existed.
Instead, they say, they were targeted because of their political views. Some describe the case as a premeditated campaign by the government to undermine the Patriot movement, an ideology based on fealty to the Second Amendment and the conviction that the government has violated the Constitution and is therefore illegitimate. They argue that the recordings and text messages that the government calls proof of a criminal conspiracy are in fact constitutionally protected speech — expressions of frustration at what they see as the government’s betrayal of its citizens.
Brandon Caserta, one of the men acquitted this spring, had text messages between one informant and an FBI agent. Caserta said the messages show the agent directed the informant “to draw specific people into the conspiracy — potential evidence of entrapment that he said the government ‘inadvertently disclosed.’”
The report revealed the informant received a handsome reward despite claiming he became one because he is a Good Samaritan:
[Lawyer Kareem] Johnson and the other defense lawyers have taken pains to note that despite his claims that he acted as a good Samaritan, Dan was rewarded financially for his work as an informant. In testimony, Dan described how his handlers eventually gave him envelopes of cash, covered his mortgage and car payment, and also bought him a phone, computer, and the new vehicle. When Dan sold his house in December because he was concerned people in the Patriot movement knew his address, the bureau even reimbursed him for what he testified was a $4,500 loss on the deal. The grand total for his seven months of work, including reimbursement for expenses, was $54,793.95, considerably more than most families in Dan’s part of Michigan bring home in a year.
“All of this evidence underscores the extremely active and coercive role the CHSs played in this matter,” wrote Scott Graham, Kaleb Franks’ attorney, in a motion filed last week.
Caserta said last week the jury needed to acquit Fox and Croft:
“It’s ridiculous the government still going to try to push the narrative that these people are actually terrorists and wanted to do violence,” Caserta told reporters outside federal court Thursday.
“Let these boys out of here, I hope this jury does the same thing and let them free,” Caserta said.
Caserta spoke to reporters outside U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids Thursday, after he was called by the defense to testify but invoked the Fifth Amendment for fear of self-incrimination.
Caserta, a self-described anarchist, said he hasn’t changed his beliefs following his acquittal. The 35-year-old spent 18 months in jail while awaiting trial.
“There’s a difference from sharing things and actually doing things that are violent. A big difference,” he said.
Julie Kelly had a great thread:
*Limited cross examin by defense (for 1st time he said, also extremely rare in criminal cases) of 2 cooperating witnesses allegedly part of the conspiracy
*Repeatedly scolded defense in front of jury; accused defense of wasting time over "crap" questioning
— Julie Kelly 🇺🇸 (@julie_kelly2) August 23, 2022
Judge Jonker, a GWB appointee, handled this trial far differently than the first.
You're telling me a jury didn't convict on a SINGLE COUNT in first trial with 2 more defendants but returned all guilty in less than half the time with 2 fewer defendants?
Jonker got the message.
— Julie Kelly 🇺🇸 (@julie_kelly2) August 23, 2022
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