Two alleged militia members found guilty of plot to abduct Michigan governor

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Aug 23 (Reuters) – A jury on Tuesday convicted two men charged with conspiracy to spark “a second American revolution” by kidnapping Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer and giving the U.S. government a victory in its second attempt to prosecute the case.

The verdict against Adam Fox, 39, and Barry Croft Jr., 46, comes about four months after a federal judge in Grand Rapids, Michigan, declared a mistrial in the same case. Two other suspects were found not guilty in the first trial.

The couple, who the government said were members of the Three Percenters militia group, were also found guilty of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction — an explosive device that prosecutors say was intended to hinder law enforcement’s response to the planned kidnapping. Croft was found guilty of an additional charge of possessing an explosive device.

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The men face the possibility of life in prison. A sentencing date has not yet been announced.

The plot was designed to end the Democratic governor’s mandates to stop the spread of the coronavirus in the early days of the pandemic, prosecutors said.

By kidnapping the governor and “bringing her to justice,” they said, the men hoped to drive the country into open conflict as the controversial presidential election in November 2020 approaches.

“They wanted to unleash a second American Civil War and a second American Revolution,” assistant attorney Nils Kessler told jurors during closing arguments on Monday.

“They didn’t want to kidnap her just like that,” Kessler said, referring to Whitmer. “They wanted to execute her.”

After the verdicts, Whitmer, who is up for re-election in November, warned of the dangers of “radicalized domestic terrorism.”

“I can – I won’t – let extremists get in the way of the work we do,” she said in a statement from her office. “They will never break my unwavering faith in the goodness and decency of our people.”

US Assistant US Attorney Andrew Birge said in a statement Tuesday that the threat to Whitmer also endangers bystanders and that no elected official should be targeted in such a way.

“Today’s verdict confirms that this plot was very real and very dangerous,” Birge said. “The Justice Department will not tolerate violent extremist plots of this nature that seek to undermine our democracy.”

The 12-member jury panel deliberated for about eight hours over two days, according to the Detroit News.

In the new trial, prosecutors again used testimony from FBI informants and two key witnesses who pleaded guilty to kidnapping conspiracy.

In planning the kidnapping, Fox compiled a list of tools the conspirators would need, including handcuffs and a hood to cover Whitmer’s head, the Detroit News reported at the trial. A makeshift house was built to simulate her being broken into and kidnapped at the governor’s vacation home in northern Michigan, they claimed.

In their closing arguments, attorneys for Croft and Fox told the jurors that the government’s case was an entrapment. They said their clients had committed no crimes and they criticized the use of FBI informants in the case, the Detroit News reported.

“The FBI shouldn’t exist to make people look like terrorists when they aren’t,” Joshua Blanchard, a Croft attorney, told the jurors.

The two are among 13 men arrested in October 2020 and charged with state or federal crimes in the alleged kidnapping conspiracy. Seven of them are being charged in state court.

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Reporting by Tyler Clifford in New York Editing by Matthew Lewis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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