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Trial Under Way for Men Accused of Plotting to Kidnap Michigan Governor


FILE - Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer speaks in Lansing, Mich., April 9, 2021. (Michigan Office of the Governor)

The trial of four men accused of conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2020 is under way in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys Thursday presented statements as the trial, which opened earlier in the week, continued.

The U.S. Justice Department charged Michigan residents Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Jr., Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta with conspiring to kidnap the Democratic governor in October of 2020.

Fox, Croft and Harris face additional charges of conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction including explosive devices, according to court documents. Croft and Harris also are accused of possessing destructive devices -- counts added in a second indictment in April of 2021. All four have entered not guilty pleas.

Prosecutors maintain the men, upset about COVID-19 lockdowns and other restrictions, recruited right-wing militia members for the plot which included driving to the governor’s vacation home in northern Michigan to abduct her, tie her up, and blow up a bridge to elude police.

Star witnesses for the prosecution are Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks, who were also charged and pleaded guilty to the conspiracy. They will testify for the government.

The defense maintains the men never had a plan to kidnap the governor but were entrapped by undercover FBI agents and informants who coerced the men into taking part while they were under the influence of marijuana.

During 2020 – the first year of the pandemic – Governor Whitmer carried on a high-profile “feud” with then-President Donald Trump, through public comments and social media – regarding his administration’s response to COVID-19. She became the target of protests by right-wing groups at the Michigan Capitol, who sometimes entered the statehouse legally bearing weapons.

Fox, Croft, and Harris each face up to life in prison if convicted of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction. A total of 14 men were originally charged in the kidnapping plot.

Some information for this report was provided by the Associated Press and Reuters

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