Two men accused of crafting a plan to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in 2020 and spark a national rebellion face a second trial this week, months after a jury was unable to reach a verdict on the couple while acquitting two others.
The result in April was a blow to federal prosecutors, who set out to show that extremists were committed to kidnapping Whitmer and causing near-election chaos between Joe Biden and then-President Donald Trump.
The trial of Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. means another public broadcast of terrifying conversations, texts and secretly recorded social media posts. It also comes at a time of intense news coverage of the US House of Representatives committee investigating the January 6, 2021 riots by Trump supporters at the Capitol.
Jurors will see how undercover FBI agents and informants infiltrated the Michigan group. In response, defense attorneys will again argue that Fox and Croft were protected by the First Amendment when they expressed malicious opinions about government and were trapped every step of the way.
“The stakes are higher because the government has doubled down,” Matthew Schneider, the former US attorney general in Detroit, said of the second trial. They will try it again, and the government’s opinion is: “We will win.”
Also in the background: Whitmer’s re-election campaign for a second term rages on. Jury selection begins Tuesday in federal court in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“It’s like deja vu all over again,” said US District Judge Robert Juncker.
The government alleges that Fox, who lived under a vacuum shop in the Grand Rapids area, and Croft, a truck driver from Bear, Delaware, wanted to target Whitmer and other government officials for their strict restrictions during the early months of the coronavirus outbreak. 19 pandemic.
The “shooting house” was manually erected for weekend shooting exercises. There is evidence that Croft, Fox and undercover agents made an overnight trip to northern Michigan to check on Whitmer II’s home and discuss placing explosives under the bridge. Two men who have pleaded guilty will testify again to prosecutors.
“I’m going to strike soon,” Croft was heard saying during a June 2020 meeting of anti-government activists in Ohio. “I will terrorize the people. The right people. The people who have been terrorizing my people.”
Fox and Croft are accused of conspiracy. The first trial ended in a mistrial when the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict against them. But the jury acquitted Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta.
Caserta’s attorney, Michael Hills, said the second trial would be “shorter and more focused” with two people instead of four.
“Second defense is always tougher than defense,” Hills said. “They have everything against them, the authority of the government.”
The judge said he would not mention the outcome of the first trial while selecting the jury. But if potential jurors said they knew, Juncker would ask if it would affect their ability to be fair and impartial.
“The jury really needs to understand that its decision should be based on the evidence in this case, not what happened in some of the other cases,” Juncker told attorneys.
Whitmer, a Democrat, said little publicly after the first trial, but he opened up to The Washington Post during a recent interview.
“Does anyone think these kidnappers wanted to keep me or ransom?” Whitmer said. “No. They were going to try me and then execute me. It was an assassination plot, but no one talks about it that way. Even the way people talk about it has muted the seriousness of it.”
White reported from Detroit. Joey Cappelletti in Lansing, Michigan, who serves on the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative panel, contributed to this story.
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Find AP’s full coverage of the Whitmer kidnapping plot trial at: https://apnews.com/hub/whitmer-kidnap-plot-trial