GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Lawyers for four men accused of planning to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer told jurors on Wednesday they were influenced by informants and federal agents who targeted them for their anti-government views.
They portrayed the men as big talkers, wannabes who never meant what they said, and, in one instance, a pot-smoking “misfit” influenced by an FBI informant he met while on a spree. ‘event.
Attorney Joshua Blanchard says the FBI used an informant with a long criminal history to contact Barry Croft Jr. and lure him to militia meetings and firearms training in Ohio , Wisconsin and Michigan. Another informant, Blanchard said, drove Croft to Wisconsin from Delaware.
“There was no plan, there was no deal and no kidnapping,” Blanchard said during his opening statement in federal court in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Prosecutors say Croft, Adam Fox, Brandon Caserta and Daniel Harris came up with the plan to snatch Whitmer because they were angry at the pandemic restrictions imposed by the Democrat.
Assistant United States Attorney Jonathan Roth said in his opening statement that the men’s actions went far beyond words. He said the men recruited militiamen, prepared to break into Whitmer’s house, tie her up and take her away, and planned to blow up a bridge to prevent police from responding quickly. Investigators stepped in and stopped a “tragedy” when the men planned to acquire a bomb to blow up a bridge near Whitmer’s home, Roth said.
He also said jurors would see social media posts and hear secretly taped conversations full of angry, vulgar and sexist language about violence and plans to take out a “bully”.
Jurors will hear from two critical insiders, Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks, who pleaded guilty to the conspiracy and will testify for the government, Roth said.
“They will tell you how real it was. … They’ll tell you they’re going to jail for it,” he said.
Roth described Fox and Croft as the masterminds of the plot. He said the four wanted to create a ‘war zone here in Michigan’ and urged jurors to set aside the defendants’ political views and desire for a ‘civil war’, as well as the work of Whitmer or their thoughts about it.
“What you have is that the defendants agreed, planned, trained and were prepared to break into a woman’s home as she slept with her family in the middle of the night and with violence and under the threat of a gun, they would tie him up and take him out of that house,” Roth said. “And to do that, they would shoot, blast and kill anyone who got in their way.”
As Roth began his opening, he turned away from the jurors and pointed at each defendant, saying they weren’t just talking but taking active steps to enact their plot. Courtroom lights dimmed and prosecutors projected photos of defendants at various stages of the alleged conspiracy onto a giant screen above the defendants.
Roth again pointed to Croft, dressed in a gray suit and tie, telling jurors he could now cut the figure of a “harmless … college professor”. As he said this, an image of Croft holding a rifle in camouflage gear appeared on the screen.
“He looked a little different back then,” the prosecutor said.
But Croft’s attorney said when informants secretly taped Croft and others, all of them were “stoned, stoned crazy”.
“The FBI is supposed to protect us from dangerous criminals and terrorists,” Blanchard said. “It’s also an agency that’s supposed to protect our freedoms. And when they do that, they’re supposed to be tough. … They’re not supposed to target the people they’re mad at.
Lawyers for Caserta and Harris have tried to steer them away from Fox and Croft, pointing out that the couple did not make the trip to northern Michigan to scout Whitmer’s home.
Defense attorney Julia Kelly said Harris, a veteran, was unhappy with the country’s direction and attended rallies for gun rights as well as protests against orders to stay at Whitmer’s house. Kelly said Harris joined the Wolverine Watchmen to keep his military skills sharp for possible security work in Afghanistan, not as part of some sinister plot.
Attorney Christopher Gibbons, representing Fox, told jurors he was virtually homeless, living in a vacuum cleaner’s basement and brushing his teeth in a restaurant restroom, not a mastermind of the conspiracy of 2020 as prosecutors claim.
“Adam Fox committed no crime in this case,” Gibbons said.
The first witness, FBI agent Todd Reineck, testified about Fox and Croft’s social media posts in the spring of 2020, including rude messages between the two. They included a Facebook video in which Fox said, “We have the numbers. We have arms. We have the ammunition… we need to take back our country.
Eleven women and seven men were selected on Tuesday to serve as jurors, although the court did not specify which six jurors are the alternates.
In 2020, Whitmer was trading taunts with then-President Donald Trump about his administration’s response to COVID-19. His critics, meanwhile, regularly demonstrated at the Michigan Capitol, clogging the streets around the statehouse and legally carrying semi-automatic rifles into the building.
The FBI said it foiled the kidnapping plot with the arrest of six men in October 2020. Garbin and Franks insist no one acted due to undue influence by agents or agents. undercover informants.
Whitmer, who is seeking re-election this year, rarely speaks publicly about the case and is not expected to attend the trial. She blamed Trump for stoking mistrust and fomenting anger over coronavirus restrictions and refusing to condemn hate groups and right-wing extremists like those accused in the plot. She said he was also an accomplice in the deadly January 6 Capitol insurrection.
White reported from Detroit and Burnett reported from Chicago. Journalist John Flesher contributed from Traverse City, Michigan.
Find full AP coverage of the Whitmer Kidnap Plot Trial at: https://apnews.com/hub/whitmer-kidnap-plot-trial