Jury in Michigan Gov. Whitmer plot deliberating for 2nd day

Posted at 7:03 AM, April 5, 2022 and last updated 7:56 PM, July 12, 2023

By JOHN FLESHER and ED WHITE Associated Press

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Jurors are returning for a second day of deliberations in the trial of four men accused of conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Jurors asked for a definition of “weapon” Monday but otherwise gave no indication of the progress of their work.

FILE – (left to right) Brandon Caserta, Barry Croft, Daniel Harris & Adam Dean Fox (Kent County Sheriff)

“We’ll do the same drill” Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker said.

Adam Fox, Barry Croft Jr., Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta are charged with a kidnapping conspiracy. Three of them also face additional charges, including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, namely an explosive.

The judge consulted prosecutors and defense lawyers before explaining how to define “weapon.”

“Something that can be used to injure, kill or destroy someone or something,” Jonker told the jury. “So if that helps — I hope — great. If it doesn’t, just let us know.”

The trial has lasted 16 days, including 13 days of testimony. The jury heard hours of closing arguments and instructions Friday.

Prosecutors said the conspiracy against Whitmer was fueled by anti-government extremism and anger over her COVID-19 restrictions. With undercover FBI agents and informants embedded in the group, the men trained with a crudely built “shoot house” to replicate her vacation home in September 2020, according to testimony.

There is no dispute that the alleged leaders, Fox and Croft, traveled to Elk Rapids, Michigan, that same weekend to see the location of the governor’s lakeside property and a nearby bridge. Harris and Caserta have been described as “soldiers” in the scheme.

Another man, Ty Garbin, who pleaded guilty, said the goal was to get Whitmer before the fall election and create enough chaos to create a civil war and stop Joe Biden from winning the presidency. Much of the government’s case came from secretly recorded conversations, group messages and social media posts.

Defense lawyers attacked the government’s investigation and the use of a crucial informant, Dan Chappel. They claimed Chappel was the real leader, taking direction from the FBI and keeping the group on edge while recording them for months.

“There was no plan,” Croft attorney Joshua Blanchard told the jury.

Croft is from Bear, Delaware, while the others are from Michigan.

Whitmer, a Democrat, rarely talks publicly about the plot, though she referred to “surprises” during her term that seemed 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.