Grand jury in Michigan governor kidnapping case

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. – A prosecutor urged jurors on Friday to convict four men in a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, saying they were “raged” and mean-spirited anti-government extremists. intends to cause a civil war in the final weeks of the 2020 general election.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler compiled evidence on the 15th day of the trial, following the group’s secret taped statements as well as testimony from agents, an unusual informant and Two famous witnesses pleaded guilty.

Meanwhile, defense attorneys have turned their backs on the government case: One said the men had been turned into “terrorists” by rogue investigators, while another pleaded ask the jurors to stop the FBI.

After listening to hours of arguments ended, the weary jury said their deliberations would begin Monday.

Kessler began his final remarks by saying that there are lines when it comes to contempt for those in power.

“If you don’t like your elected representatives, you can vote for them at the ballot box. That’s what makes this country great,” Kessler told the jury. “What we can’t do is kidnap, kill or blow up. That’s what makes America great.”

Adam Fox, Barry Croft Jr., Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta were charged with conspiracy to kidnap. Three of them also face weapons-related charges.

Men arrested in October 2020 amid discussion of donating $4,000 to an explosive that could blow up a bridge and stymie police response to a kidnapping, according to evidence the court. Fox twice visited northern Michigan to scout the area; one of those trips featured Croft and the undercover agents.

Kessler said the group’s motive was to spark “boogaloo,” a reference to the American Civil War, by kidnapping Whitmer.

“That’s what binds these defendants together. … They were filled with rage,” the prosecutor said. “They’re paranoid because they know what they’re doing is against the law and fear getting caught.”

The four men deny any plot to kidnap Whitmer from her motel, even though they are clearly disgruntled with the government and with the restrictions imposed by the governor during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ty Garbin, who pleaded guilty and testified against the men, said the aim was to arrest Whitmer before the election and create enough chaos to prevent Joe Biden from winning the presidency.

Kessler brought the jury back to the events of the summer and fall of 2020: a nationwide militia meeting in Ohio, training in Wisconsin and Michigan, and a September night excursion to see the crew. Governor’s estate on Lake Birch and inspect the bridge.

The men built a rudimentary “shooting house” in Luther, Michigan, to simulate Whitmer’s house and practice gun entry and exit, according to evidence.

The investigation began when ex-soldier Dan Chappel joined the militia, the Wolverine Watchmen, to maintain his gun skills. Chappel testified that he was alarmed when he first heard about assaulting the police and agreed to become an FBI informant.

“Thank God for Dan Chappel. …He came back at great personal risk,” Kessler told the jury.

But the jurors took a different view from the defense. Fox’s attorney, Christopher Gibbons, accused Chappel, who was paid about $50,000 by the FBI, including expenses, and spoke to Fox nearly daily for months, recording their conversations.

Gibbons says Fox is an unlucky man who lives in the basement of a vacuum shop in the Grand Rapids area, smokes marijuana whenever he can – and is completely incapable of leading a wild conspiracy .

“The plan is total nonsense. It’s not real to Adam Fox. He’s LARPing,” said Gibbons, using the acronym for live action role-playing. “Adam Fox is often depressed. He’s just playing his game. … One can’t accidentally participate in a conspiracy.”

He accused the government of “radicalization”.

“Invite the citizens they perceive to be vulnerable to a theater where they have a full sense of who and what they are, and someone pulls the leash, somebody beats a drum and makes them do it,” Gibbons said. job.

“That’s unacceptable in America,” he said. “That’s not how it works. They don’t create terrorists so we can arrest them.”

Croft, a trucker from Bear, Delaware, vented on social media about hanging governors for treason, and he was repeatedly recorded talking about violence and explosives. Prosecutors noted that he made four trips by car to the Midwest.

His lawyer, however, called it “crazy talk” from a “stoned pirate”, a reference to Croft’s marijuana and three-cornered hat, not a plan of attack. Whitmer.

“I am ashamed of the conduct of the top law enforcement agency in the United States. … This investigation is an embarrassment,” Joshua Blanchard told the jury.

Harris and Caserta’s attorney stressed that no man had traveled to Elk Rapids with Croft and Fox to survey Whitmer’s home during weekend training in Luther.

Julia Kelly said Garbin and Kaleb Franks, who have both testified against the group, are “liars”, even though they have pleaded guilty and are facing jail terms.

The defense used a large screen to complement the closing remarks. Some jurors smiled as attorney Michael Hills showed an animated dog to highlight that Caserta was said to have nodded in agreement to the kidnapping plan but was not recorded saying he was involved. family.

Whitmer, a Democrat, rarely speaks publicly about the plot, though she has mentioned “surprises” during her tenure as “something beyond fiction” when she filed for re-election on March 17.

She has blamed former US President Donald Trump for inciting anger over coronavirus restrictions and refused to condemn right-wing extremists as those charged in the case. Whitmer has said Trump was complicit in the January 6 Capitol riots.

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