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Kidnapping conspiracy trial: Jury weighs fate of 4 men accused of planning to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer

CHICAGO — Jurors deliberate during the trial of four men accused of conspiring to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in 2020. They began reviewing evidence on Monday after about four weeks of testimony in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids , Michigan.

Here is an overview of the charges and what is needed to obtain convictions:


Six men were initially charged, but two pleaded guilty before trial.

Other defendants include Adam Fox, described by prosecutors as the ringleader of the plot. He and co-defendant Barry Croft Jr. were affiliated with the far-right anti-government “Three Percenter” movement. Prosecutors say the other two defendants, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta, were members of the Wolverine Watchmen, a self-proclaimed militia with similar views.

Ty Garbin pleaded guilty last year and Kaleb Franks joined him in February. Both were star government witnesses at the trial.


All four are charged with kidnapping conspiracy.

Prosecutors say the defendants conspired from June to October 2020 to abduct Whitmer from his vacation home in northern Michigan because they were enraged at what they viewed as his overly restrictive policies during the pandemic.

Fox, Croft and Harris are also charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction. Prosecutors said they were looking to build and purchase explosives, with the aim of destroying a bridge near Whitmer’s cottage to thwart police during the kidnapping.

SEE ALSO | New motive revealed in militia plot to kidnap and assassinate Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer

Croft and Harris are charged with possession of an unregistered destructive device – a penny-wrapped firework that could be used as shrapnel.

Harris is the only accused of possessing a semi-automatic assault rifle with a barrel less than 16 inches long that was not registered to him.


The charges of conspiracy to kidnap and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The maximum sentence for possession of an unregistered destructive device is 10 years, and Harris could face up to three years in prison if convicted of the semi-automatic rifle charge.

Garbin has already been sentenced to six years in prison and Franks is expected to receive a lighter sentence than if he had lost at trial.


The defendants never achieved their alleged goal of kidnapping Whitmer. Unbeknownst to them, the FBI had infiltrated their group and were watching them closely. They were arrested in October 2020.

Defense attorneys described their clients as weekend warriors prone to big, wild talk, who were often stoned. To prove it was deadly serious, prosecutors presented evidence showing that the defendants took specific actions, called “overt acts,” to carry out their plans.

Jury instructions explain that convictions for kidnapping and weapons conspiracy require proof that each defendant committed at least one of the long overt acts in the indictment.

Proof that an accused merely knew of the conspiracy or was associated with members of the conspiracy is not enough.


They include that Fox proposed Whitmer’s kidnapping on August 23, 2020, during a meeting with Harris and Caserta. Another is that the men looked at each other’s IDs in an effort to make sure no one was an undercover agent.

Another is that Fox, Croft, Harris and Caserta held field training exercises in September 2020, practicing tactics to combat Whitmer’s security details.

The indictment attributes another overt act on October 7, 2020 to Caserta, alleging that he ordered the co-conspirators that, if they met the police, they should give the officers a chance to leave and then kill them. .

Overt acts alleged on the weapons of mass destruction charge include Harris bragging on May 1, 2020 to be a Marine Corps veteran who “can blow things up if you give me what I have. need”.


The defense mounted an entrapment defense at trial, accusing the FBI of engaging in the prohibited investigative practice. Jurors who find authorities deceived or incited targets to commit crimes they showed no predisposition to commit are expected to return with not-guilty verdicts.

Prosecutors bear the burden of proving that the defendants were not set up. At trial, they sought to show that not only were the men predisposed to joining the kidnapping plot, but that they had discussed such schemes before the FBI sting began.

The video in the player above is from a previous report.

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