Mark Chutkow, former federal prosecutor:
Yes, as you say, it’s a bit – speculation to understand exactly what happened in the jury room, because they did not speak.
But I think there were underlying tensions in this case. One is that the line between protected free speech and a criminal conspiracy was something the government had to wrestle with in this case, especially with the polarizing issues you raised about the pandemic and the shutdown.
Second, the question is how far can the government go to get involved in a conspiracy? Here, the defense vigorously raised issues of entrapment, both by the government informant who turned to the state, but also by undercover agents and cooperating defendants.
Third, I think — on the other hand, how far can the government go before pulling the plug? I’ve worked with FBI agents before, and there’s a constant tension: do we let the plot go on longer so we can build a better case, or do we disconnect because we don’t want anyone getting hurt. ?
The concern here is that if the informant loses access to the conspirators, then the government loses control, and no one knows what will happen next.