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Ed White, Associated Press
Ed White, Associated Press
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Prosecutors rested their case Wednesday against four men charged with planning to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer before the 2020 national election.
Key evidence over 13 days of trial came from two undercover FBI agents and an informant who was among the extremists for months and made hours of secret recordings. Two men who avoided trial by pleading guilty provided critical testimony last week.
One of the last witnesses for the government was the longtime companion of Barry Croft Jr., an alleged leader of the scheme.
“He was antigovernment,” Chastity Knight of Bear, Delaware, told jurors in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “He just thought the government’s not for him. The government doesn’t help the people out. They like to line their own pockets.”
Croft, Adam Fox, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta are charged with a kidnapping conspiracy. Fox, Croft and Harris also face additional charges related to explosives.
Knight, 40, cried as she identified one of Croft’s daughters as the person who offered him a chip during a training session with weapons in Luther, Michigan.
“Honey, I’m making explosives. Can you get away from me, please? … I love you. Get out of here,” Croft said in secretly recorded remarks.
READ MORE: Man in Gov. Whitmer kidnap plot says group was ready to use grenade launcher to fight security
Defense lawyers asked for a direct acquittal, a standard step in a criminal trial, arguing there wasn’t sufficient evidence to give the case to the jury. But U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker quickly swept it aside and especially noted the detailed testimony of two star witnesses who pleaded guilty, Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks.
Defense teams plan to summon their own trial witnesses, and it’s possible the four men will testify. Attorneys claim the group was engaged in a lot of crazy talk fueled by agents, informants and marijuana but not a conspiracy.
The men were arrested in October 2020 as they moved closer to obtaining an explosive that could blow up a bridge and hold back police from responding to a kidnapping at Whitmer’s vacation home, according to trial testimony.
Garbin said the men acted willingly and had hoped to create national chaos by striking before the election. He said there was a desire to stop Joe Biden from winning the presidency.
The group was angry over COVID-19 restrictions and disgusted with government, recordings and social media posts show.
Whitmer, a Democrat, rarely talks publicly about the kidnapping plot, though she referred to “surprises” during her term that seem like “something out of fiction” when she filed for reelection on March 17.
She has blamed former President Donald Trump for fomenting anger over coronavirus restrictions and refusing to condemn right-wing extremists like those charged in the case. Whitmer has said Trump was complicit in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
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