Grand Rapids, Michigan – Jury selection begins Tuesday in the second trial of two men charged with plotting to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in 2020 because of hating restrictions at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prosecutors are putting Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. on trial again after a jury did not reach a decision in April. Two co-defendants were acquitted and two more were previously convicted.
Dozens of potential jurors from western and northern Michigan reported to the Federal Court in Grand Rapids.
“I don’t know if you feel like you won the lottery or just got called into the principal’s office. But either way, you’re welcome,” said U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker.
The conspiracy to kidnap the Democratic governor took two trips to scout her second home in northern Michigan, after training in Wisconsin and Michigan, as evidenced in the first trial.
Fox, 39, lived in the Grand Rapids area and Croft Bear, 46, is from Delaware. They regularly communicated with other extremists who were angry with Whitmer and various public officials, evidence shows.
“This is not a political platform,” Jonker said during opening remarks to the jury pool.
The judge said the conviction or acquittal of the men could not be influenced by “whether you like Governor Whitmer or dislike Governor Whitmer”. “It is not if you think that masking mandates or vaccine mandates or any other response was good or bad policy. It’s not a proxy for any of those things.”
The jury will listen to secretly recorded conversations and look at text messages and social media posts in favor of the violence. However, defense attorneys would strike at the credibility of undercover FBI agents and informers who fooled the group into thinking they were collaborators.
Fox and Croft’s lawyers would argue that they were protected by the First Amendment and were implicated at every step by the government.
“Absolutely bullshit,” Fox’s attorney Christopher Gibbons said of the kidnapping plan.
Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta were found not guilty in the first trial. Ty Garbin and Caleb Franks had previously pleaded guilty and will testify again against Fox and Croft.
Garbin told jurors at the first trial that the goal was to create national chaos and was close to kidnapping. Election Between Joe Biden and then-President Donald Trump.
Whitmer, who will not be called as a trial witness, revealed Monday night that she first tested positive for COVID-19 and was experiencing mild symptoms. In a recent interview, she said she believed she was the target of a “murder plot”, not just kidnapping.
“Nobody talks about it that way,” Whitmer told The Washington Post.
White reported from Detroit. Cappelletti is a core member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on secret issues.
Watch the AP’s full coverage of the Whitmer kidnapping conspiracy trial here: https://apnews.com/hub/whitmer-kidnap-plot-trial