U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker said testimony will pick up again Thursday. The trial was suspended this week because the virus had struck a “key participant” in the case. The judge did not disclose the name of the person who tested positive.
The trial could longer than a month. The four men accused in the kidnapping plot, Barry Croft Jr, Adam Fox, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta, planned to kidnap Governor Whitmer from her Birch Lake vacation home as they were angry about her COVID restrictions.
In testimony last week, prosecutors sought to counter defense claims that the four men were entrapped by the FBI into joining a kidnapping conspiracy that wouldn’t have occurred to them otherwise.
On Thursday, jurors heard for the first time a recording of one of the defendants specifically talk about kidnapping the Democratic governor. Croft Jr could be heard saying there should be “a quick, precise grab” of Whitmer.
Jurors heard him and defendant Adam Fox in social media postings and recordings talking about government abuse and overreach and saying violence was a valid response. Prosecutors say Croft and Fox were plot ringleaders.
Jurors even heard the sound of an explosives test Croft was carrying out. He’s later heard speaking in a positive tone of voice about the damage he could cause, saying it would be “devastating” and that he was also planning to blow up a nearby bridge to slow the police response.
In other recordings, Croft and Fox mentioned Whitmer and spoke excitedly about taking action that would terrorize people.
“I’m gonna hit soon,” Croft is heard saying during what prosecutors say was a crucial June 6, 2020, meeting of anti-government activists in Ohio. “I’m going to terrorize people. The right people. The people who have been terrorizing my people.”
A little later, Fox also is heard on audio recorded by an FBI informant, tossing out ideas and telling the group: “You need to take hostages. There’s your value.”
During opening statements Wednesday, defense attorneys said the FBI tricked the men into participating in a plot to kidnap Whitmer and U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker allowed them to address an entrapment defense.
Croft’s lawyer said informants secretly recorded the men when virtually everyone was “stoned, absolutely out-of-your-mind stoned,” leading to fantastical ideas, including using a kite to transport Whitmer. “They knew it was stoned-crazy talk and not a plan,” Joshua Blanchard said of the FBI.
Harris’ attorney, Julia Kelly, said the former Marine liked an FBI informant called “Big Dan” because he presented himself as a gun training instructor. “Big Dan was the leader,” she told jurors. “How do I shoot out of a vehicle? Yeah, you go ask Big Dan. That’s what Daniel was looking for in the summer of 2020.”
Caserta’s attorney, Michael Hills, said attack training sessions in Michigan and Wisconsin were “Fed-sponsored events.” But Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Roth said evidence would prove the defendants’ desire to commit violence regardless of anything the informants did or suggested, telling jurors the men were “willing and eager” and preparing for the crime “long before” law enforcement got involved.
“If the defendant was already willing to commit the crime, that is not entrapment,” Roth said. Roth also said that the defendants wanted to create “war zone here in Michigan.”
“These were not people who were all talk,” Roth said. “These were people who wanted to separate themselves from people who were all talk.”
Whitmer has remained largely silent about the case and isn’t expected to attend the trial.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: WZZM13.COM