Two Acquittals, Two Mistrials In Federal Trial Over Whitmer Kidnapping Plot

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The weeks-long trial of four men accused of conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) ended Friday with no guilty verdicts. 

Accused plotters Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta were found not guilty Friday after five days of jury deliberations, while Chief U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker declared mistrials for Adam Fox and Barry Croft due to the jury being unable to reach a verdict. Fox and Croft will return to jail for now, The Detroit News reported.

Two others charged federally in the alleged plot, Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks, have already pleaded guilty. Several others faces state charges, including providing material support for terrorist acts.

“Best birthday gift ever,” Caserta said Friday, the News reported. 

The six federal defendants were arrested in October 2020 and indicted by a federal grand jury that December.

The men were accused of conspiring to kidnap the governor as part of a months-long planning effort that included musing about leaving Whitmer stranded in a boat and using explosives to hinder the police response. 

All four men tried federally were accused of a kidnapping conspiracy. Harris, Fox and Croft were additionally charged with knowingly conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction against persons or property. Croft and Harris also were charged with possession of an unregistered destructive device, and Harris was charged with possession of a semi-automatic rifle that was not registered to him. 

Defense attorneys for the men said they weren’t serious about carrying out the acts they’d talked about and emphasized the role of government informants in the case.

The prosecution, based on hundreds of hours of recordings, was complicated by external factors, including the domestic violence arrest of one of the FBI agents helping to lead the investigation. 

“We thought the jury would convict beyond reasonable doubt based on the evidence,” Andrew Birge, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, said Friday.  

“We believe in the jury system,” he added, before referring to Fox and Croft, who he said he would retry: “We have two defendants awaiting trial.”

In a statement, Whitmer Chief of Staff JoAnne Huls said “There must be accountability and consequences for those who commit heinous crimes. Without accountability, extremists will be emboldened.” 

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