GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Jurors returned Tuesday for their first full day of deliberations in the trial of two men accused of hatching a plan to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the government’s second shot at getting convictions in a case that emerged just before the 2020 presidential election.
Prosecutors said some of the best evidence against Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. came from their own words, either written by them or secretly recorded by FBI agents and informants during weeks of surveillance in three states.
Defense lawyers, meanwhile, pounced on the FBI in their closing arguments, linking any scheme to rogue operatives, not a band of anti-government rebels.
Jury deliberations resumed following an afternoon of work Monday. U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker said there were fans in place, acknowledging that the room was uncomfortably warm because of nearby computer servers, and that breaks for fresh air might be necessary.
During closing arguments, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler reminded the jury how Fox, Croft and others took a night ride to Elk Rapids, Michigan, to see Whitmer’s lakeside vacation home and a bridge that could be blown up to obstruct police.
“Look at how close they were, yards away from her house. They didn’t need a helicopter. They didn’t need a boat even,” said Kessler, referring to other ideas that were tossed around. “They needed a pickup truck, duct tape and rope. They had everything they needed.”
Fox, 39, and Croft, 46, are on trial for a second time, after a jury in April couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict but acquitted two other men. Two more pleaded guilty.
“‘Which governor is going to be dragged off and hung for treason first?’” Kessler said, quoting Croft.
“Any governor would do,” the prosecutor 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, Kessler said.
But defense lawyers have portrayed Fox and Croft as “big talkers,” a bumbling, foul-mouthed, marijuana-smoking pair exercising free speech and incapable of leading anything as extraordinary as the abduction of a public official.
“In America, the FBI is not supposed to create domestic terrorists so that the FBI can arrest them,” Fox attorney Christopher Gibbons told the jury. “The FBI isn’t supposed to create a conspiracy so the FBI can stand up and claim a disruption.”
He said Fox was “isolated, broke, homeless,” living in the basement of a vacuum store in the Grand Rapids area.
Croft’s attorney, Joshua Blanchard, offered a similar assessment in a searing attack on the FBI’s tactics.
“You don’t have to agree with Barry’s politics. I surely don’t,” Blanchard said. “But we should all agree that the principles of truth and justice are the foundation that our country is built upon. The FBI has told us the truth doesn’t matter to them. … You have the power to put a stop to that today.”
Croft is a trucker from Bear, Delaware.
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 hadn’t been following the second trial but remains concerned about “violent rhetoric in this country.”
Trump recently called the kidnapping plan a “fake deal.”
Find the AP’s full coverage of the kidnapping plot trial: https://apnews.com/hub/whitmer-kidnap-plot-trial
White reported from Detroit.
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