Defense rests after challenging agents in Whitmer plot trial

Posted at 12:14 PM, August 19, 2022 and last updated 11:00 AM, September 10, 2022

By ED WHITE Associated Press

Lawyers for two men charged with conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called investigators to the witness stand Friday to try to raise questions about their tactics in 2020 and highlight scornful attitudes.

The defense rested its case on the ninth day of trial. Closing arguments were scheduled for Monday in federal court in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

This combo of images provided by the Kent County, Mich., Jail. shows Barry Croft Jr., left, and Adam Fox. Jury selection started Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022, in the second trial of the two men charged with conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2020 over their disgust with restrictions early in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prosecutors are putting Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. on trial again after a jury in April couldn’t reach a verdict. Two co-defendants were acquitted and two more pleaded guilty earlier. (Kent County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. declined to testify. They are on trial for a second time after a jury in April couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict but acquitted two other men.

John Penrod, a Delaware state trooper who worked on the case with the FBI, was confronted with text messages in which he called Croft a “coward” and other pejoratives.

What about “moron?” asked attorney Joshua Blanchard.

“It could be Mr. Croft or it could be anyone in the group,” Penrod replied.

Blanchard also played audio of FBI agent Hank Impola telling an informant, “A saying we have in my office is, ‘Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.'”

But on cross-examination, agent Corey Baumgardner agreed with a prosecutor who said Impola’s remark two months after the arrests was actually a reference to how Croft and Fox would spin the kidnapping allegations.

The defense argues that Fox and Croft were entrapped by agents and informants who fed their wild anti-government views. Prosecutors say the group wanted to trigger a national revolt and was furious over COVID-19 restrictions imposed by Whitmer during the early stages of the pandemic.

Croft, 46, is from Bear, Delaware. Fox, 39, was living in the basement of a vacuum shop in the Grand Rapids area.

Whitmer, a Democrat, has blamed then-President Donald Trump for stoking mistrust and fomenting anger over coronavirus restrictions and refusing to condemn hate groups and right-wing extremists like those charged in the plot.

Trump recently called the kidnapping plan a “fake deal.”

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