Trial of four men charged with conspiracy to kidnap Michigan governor will soon go to jury

April 1 (Reuters) – Prosecutors and defense attorneys in the federal trial of four men accused of conspiring to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer are due to present their closing arguments in a Grand Rapids courtroom on Friday .

Then, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Jonker will assign the case to a 12-person jury. He will have to decide whether the defendants were exchanging pointless chatter, as the defense says, or whether they were serious about a plot to snatch the governor from her vacation home shortly before the 2020 election, as the court claims. ‘charge.

The defendants – Adam Fox, Brandon Caserta, Barry Croft Jr. and Daniel Harris – are charged with conspiracy to kidnap the Democratic governor. All of the defendants except Caserta are also charged with knowingly conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against persons or property. Croft and Harris also face additional firearms charges.

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If convicted, the men could spend the rest of their lives in prison. The charges of conspiracy to kidnap and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction each carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Two other men originally charged with the alleged conspiracy have reached plea agreements. The couple, Ty Garbin and Kalen Franks, served as star witnesses for prosecutors, who sought to prove that the four defendants planned to break into Whitmer’s vacation home in northern Michigan, Florida. tie him up and take him away at gunpoint for a “trial”. on treason charges for his COVID-19 warrants.

Garbin is currently serving a six-year sentence, while Franks awaits sentencing.

Defense attorneys argued that their clients only engaged in gossip and never conspired to kidnap the governor.

The four are among 13 men who were arrested in October 2020 and charged with state or federal crimes in the alleged kidnapping conspiracy. Seven of them face charges in state court.

The FBI said it began tracking the group’s movements after seeing online chats that included posts about the violent overthrow of some state governments. The group’s goal was to end restrictions on social and business activities imposed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Harris, Caserta and an undercover informant who testified at trial, identified only as Big Dan, were members of the Wolverine Watchmen, a militia, prosecutors say. Croft and Fox were members of the “Three Percenters”, a similar far-right organization.

Big Dan testified that he quit the Watchmen and agreed to help the FBI after members began discussing killing police officers, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The indictment charges one or more of the defendants with discussing Whitmer’s abduction and planning to meet in Wisconsin to train with assault rifles. The posts also discussed buying supplies to use in the kidnapping and putting Whitmer’s vacation home under surveillance.

Fox ordered $4,000 worth of explosives from an undercover FBI agent posing as a co-conspirator, according to the indictment. He also said Fox and Harris made payments for the explosives in the following weeks.

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Reporting by Tyler Clifford; Editing by Aurora Ellis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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