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2 acquitted, jury hung 2 others in Whitmer kidnapping plot

Fox, Croft and Harris faced additional charges. The two most serious counts, conspiracy to kidnap and conspiracy to use explosives, both carry a life sentence.

Defense attorneys described their clients as gullible weekend warriors prone to big wild arguments, who were often stoned. They said undercover FBI agents and informants tricked and cajoled the men into agreeing to a plot.

To counter this entrapment allegation, prosecutors presented evidence that the men had discussed Whitmer’s abduction before the FBI sting began. They went well beyond discussions, including exploring Whitmer’s summer home and testing explosives, prosecutors told jurors.

Croft is from Delaware while the others are from Michigan.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s previous story follows below.

A jury said on Friday it had made decisions on “several” of the 10 counts, but was deadlocked on others in the trial of four men accused of conspiring to kidnap the Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker conceded the fight on the fifth day of deliberations, but told jurors they would have to continue working while lunch was on the way.

Decisions of conviction or acquittal must be taken unanimously.

“I know it’s hard. We all know it’s tough,” Jonker told the jury.

There are 10 charges in the case: one against Brandon Caserta, two against Adam Fox, three against Barry Croft Jr. and four against Daniel Harris. The men all face the main charge of a kidnapping plot; the other counts are linked to explosives and a firearm.

The judge read the jury note in open court.

“We made a decision on several points. However are locked on others. How should we proceed?” says the note.

Jonker recalled the line, “Is this your final answer?” from the ABC TV show, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”

“It is important to achieve unanimity if you can. … If you just can’t see it, then that’s what we ultimately need to hear as the final answer,” Jonker said.

Proceedings resumed earlier on Friday with a court worker handing over a large plastic bag containing pennies, known as Exhibit 291. The pennies were requested before jurors went home on Thursday.

Coins stuck to commercial-grade fireworks were intended to act like shrapnel, investigators said.

According to evidence, a homemade explosive was detonated during training in September 2020, about a month before the men were arrested.

In his April 1 closing argument, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler said Croft wanted to test the explosive as a possible weapon to use against Whitmer’s security team. He quoted him as saying the pennies would be so hot they could stab your skin.

The trial has now spanned 20 days since March 8, including jury selection, evidence, closing arguments and jury deliberations.

Prosecutors offered testimony from undercover agents, a key informant and two men who pleaded guilty to the conspiracy. Jurors also read and heard secretly taped conversations, violent social media posts and chat messages.

Prosecutors said the group was steeped in anti-government extremism and angry at Whitmer’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Defense attorneys, however, said any scheme was the creation of government agents who were embedded in the group and manipulated the men.

Croft is from Bear, Delaware, while the others are from Michigan.

Whitmer, a Democrat, rarely speaks publicly about the plot, although she did refer to “surprises” during her tenure that appeared to be “something out of fiction” when she sought re-election on March 17.

She blamed former President Donald Trump for fomenting anger over coronavirus restrictions and refusing to condemn right-wing extremists like those charged in the case.


Politico

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