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2 acquitted, jury hung for 2 others in Michigan kidnapping case

A jury on Friday acquitted two men of all charges in a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer but could not reach a verdict against the two alleged leaders, a stunning defeat for the government after a trial week-long story centered on a remarkable FBI sting operation just before the 2020 election.

Whitmer did not immediately comment on the result, though his chief of staff was critical, saying Americans are “living the normalization of political violence.”

The result was announced on the fifth day of deliberations, hours after the jury said it had struggled to find unanimity on the counts in the 10-count indictment. . The judge told the panel to keep working, but the jurors returned after lunch to say they were still deadlocked on some points.

Daniel Harris, 24, and Brandon Caserta, 33, were found not guilty of conspiracy. Additionally, Harris was acquitted of the explosives and firearm charges.

The jury was unable to reach a verdict for Adam Fox, 38, and Barry Croft Jr., 46, meaning the government can try them again on two conspiracy charges. Croft also faces a separate explosive charge. They will remain in custody.

FILE – These photos provided by the Kent County Sheriff and the Delaware Department of Justice show, top row from left, Brandon Caserta and Barry Croft; and bottom row from left, Adam Dean Fox and Daniel Harris. The four were tried on federal charges of conspiring to kidnap the governor of Michigan; a jury on April 8, 2022, acquitted Harris and Caserta of all charges but deadlocked the other men.

No juror has spoken publicly about the mixed result.

“Obviously, we are disappointed with the outcome. … We have two defendants awaiting trial and we will get back to work,” US Attorney Andrew Birge said.

Harris and Caserta embraced their lawyers when U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker declared they were free after 18 months in prison awaiting trial.

In a Grand Rapids courtroom, during 13 days of testimony, prosecutors presented evidence from undercover agents, a key informant and two men who pleaded guilty to the conspiracy. Jurors also read and heard secretly taped conversations, violent social media posts and chat messages.

Ty Garbin, who has pleaded guilty and is serving a six-year prison sentence, said the plan was to get Whitmer and cause enough chaos to start a civil war before the election to prevent Joe Biden from winning the election. presidency.

Garbin and Kaleb Franks, who also pleaded guilty and testified for the government, were among six people arrested in October 2020 amid talks of raising $4,000 for an explosive to blow up a bridge and thwart any response police to a kidnapping, according to trial testimony.

Prosecutors said the group was steeped in anti-government extremism and furious at Whitmer’s pandemic restrictions. There was evidence of a crudely constructed house to practice getting in and out of his vacation home, and a night walk of Croft, Fox and secret agents to check the property.

But defense attorneys described the men as gullible weekend warriors, often stoned with marijuana and subject to big wild talk. They said FBI agents and informants tricked and cajoled the men into targeting the governor.

2 acquitted, jury hung for 2 others in Michigan kidnapping case

FILE – Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer addresses the state during a speech in Lansing, Michigan October 8, 2020.

During closing arguments a week ago, Fox attorney Christopher Gibbons said the plan was “total nonsense” and he pleaded with jurors to be the “firewall” against the government.

Gibbons said the Harris and Caserta acquittals demonstrated serious flaws in the government’s case.

Meanwhile, Michigan Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist said “the result is disappointing.” Whitmer’s office released a harsh reaction from the governor’s chief of staff, JoAnne Huls.

“The plot to kidnap and kill a governor may seem like an anomaly. But we have to be honest about what it really is: the result of violent and confrontational rhetoric that is all too common in our country,” Huls said. “There must be accountability and consequences for those who commit heinous crimes. Without accountability, extremists will be emboldened.”

Whitmer, a Democrat, was not a trial witness and did not attend.

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