GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Jurors returned to court to ask a question on Monday, but offered no verdict on the first day of deliberations in the trial of four men accused of conspiring to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
Adam Fox, Barry Croft Jr., Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta are charged with kidnapping conspiracy. Three men also face additional charges, including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, namely an explosive.
The jury asked the judge for a definition of “weapon” mid-Monday afternoon, but otherwise gave no indication of the status of the deliberations.
“Something that can be used to hurt, kill or destroy someone or something,” Jonker said after consulting with prosecutors and defense attorneys. “So if that helps – I hope – great. If it doesn’t, let us know.
The trial lasted 16 days, including 13 days of testimony. The jury heard hours of closing arguments and closing statements on Friday.
Jonker told jurors last week that the men could be found guilty of conspiracy, even if a kidnapping did not take place in the fall of 2020.
A key factor, if the jury finds it, would be a “spoken or unspoken mutual understanding” between two or more people in the group, the judge said.
Prosecutors said the plot had been simmering for months, stoked by anti-government extremism and anger over Whitmer’s COVID-19 restrictions. With undercover FBI agents and informants embedded in the group, the men trained with a crudely constructed “shooting house” to replicate his vacation home, prosecutors say.
There is no denying that the alleged leaders, Fox and Croft, traveled to Elk Rapids, Michigan to scout the Governor’s property and a nearby bridge on the same weekend in September 2020.
Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks, who pleaded guilty and testified against the four men, were on the same road trip, with undercover investigators.
Garbin said the goal was to get Whitmer before the fall election and create enough chaos to create a civil war and prevent Joe Biden from winning the presidency. Much of the government case came from secretly taped conversations, group messages and social media posts.
“You heard them in their own voices over and over again,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler told jurors, “talking about his kidnapping, his murder, blowing up bridges and people and anyone who might get in trouble. through their path. And it wasn’t just about talking.
The men were arrested in October 2020.
Defense attorneys, particularly those representing Fox and Croft, have attacked the government investigation and the use of a key informant, Dan Chappel. They claimed that Chappel was the real leader, taking over the FBI and keeping the group nervous while recording them for months.
“Dan Chappel makes it all happen,” attorney Christopher Gibbons said in his closing remarks.
Attorney Joshua Blanchard has repeatedly called the scheme “smoke and mirrors”.
“There was no plan. There was no agreement,” he said.
Croft is from Bear, Delaware, while the others are from Michigan.
Whitmer, a Democrat, rarely speaks publicly about the plot, although she did refer to “surprises” during her tenure that appeared to be “something out of fiction” when she sought re-election on March 17.
She blamed former President Donald Trump for fomenting anger over coronavirus restrictions and refusing to condemn right-wing extremists like those charged in the case.
Find full AP coverage of the Whitmer Kidnap Plot Trial at: https://apnews.com/hub/whitmer-kidnap-plot-trial
White reported from Detroit.