Michigan Governor Whitmer’s conspiracy jury deliberates for 2nd day

By JOHN FLESHER and ED WHITE Associated Press

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

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

FILE – (L to R) Brandon Caserta, Barry Croft, Daniel Harris and Adam Dean Fox (Kent County Sheriff)

“We will do the same exercise” on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker said.

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

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

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

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

Prosecutors said the plot against Whitmer was fueled by anti-government extremism and anger over its COVID-19 restrictions. With undercover FBI agents and informants embedded in the group, the men trained with a crudely constructed “shooting house” to replicate his vacation home in September 2020, according to reports.

It is undisputed that the alleged leaders, Fox and Croft, traveled to Elk Rapids, Michigan, the same weekend to view the location of the Governor’s lakefront property and a bridge near. Harris and Caserta were described as “soldiers” in the diagram.

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 prevent Joe Biden from winning the presidency. Much of the government case came from secretly taped conversations, group messages and social media posts.

Defense attorneys attacked the government investigation and the use of a key informant, Dan Chappel. They claimed that Chappel was the real leader, taking over the FBI and keeping the group nervous while recording them for months.

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

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

Whitmer, a Democrat, rarely speaks publicly about the plot, although she did refer to “surprises” during her tenure that appeared to be “something out of fiction” when she sought re-election on March 17.

She blamed former President Donald Trump for fomenting anger over coronavirus restrictions and refusing to condemn right-wing extremists like those charged in the case.

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