A federal jury on Friday found two men not guilty and returned no verdicts for two other suspects in the conspiracy to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D).
The jury found suspects Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta not guilty of conspiracy to kidnap Whitmer. However, the jury is deadlocked on the charges against suspects Adam Fox and Barry Croft, resulting in a mistrial.
“After utilizing the court’s suggestions, we are still unable to reach a unanimous decision on several issues,” the jury said in a note after three hours of deliberation.
“You have to vote your own conscience at the end of the day. See if anything moves you about a locked decision,” the judge told the jury.
Three hours later, the jury returned with their partial verdicts.
The four defendants were charged with conspiracy to kidnap and three were charged with weapons of mass destruction. The alleged Whitmer kidnapping plot resulted in more than a dozen arrests on federal and state charges after FBI agents uncovered the plan in October 2020.
The prosecution argued the men planned to kidnap Whitmer because they felt the governor was infringing on their freedoms while Michigan dealt with the impact of the coronavirus. However, the defense argued that “these were all fanciful speeches made by men who were stoned to death most of the time, and that they had no real plan or ever intended to kidnap Whitmer”.
The FBI became involved in the alleged plot to kidnap Whitmer after a former member of the group became unhappy with their message of violence.
As the Detroit Free Press Explain:
The witness who helped solve the case was a former Wolverine Watchmen who told jurors he left the group after hearing the men talk about killing police officers, told his cop friend about it, then received a call from the FBI asking him if he would go to the shelter. He accepted and became known to the group as Big Dan.
The defense argued that Big Dan was the catalyst for the kidnapping plot because he led the suspects to a warehouse, where they thought they were buying material for the plot, but were eventually arrested by federal agents.
Caserta defense attorney Mike Hills said the FBI’s actions were “inadmissible.” “I think what the FBI did is unconscionable. And I think the jury just sent them a loud and clear message,” he said.
Hills attributed the defendant’s behavior to “foul language” and said, “We have the freedom to say that. If I don’t like the governor and it’s rude talk, I can do it in our country.
“That’s the beauty of this country. That’s what’s great,” he added.
After the jury’s decision, Governor Whitmer said the alleged plot was “the result of violent and confrontational rhetoric that is all too common in our country.”
“There must be accountability and consequences for those who commit heinous crimes. Without accountability, extremists will be emboldened,” Whitmer said.