Updated Apr 8, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Two men acquitted in conspiracy plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Whitmer

Gretchen Whitmer, governor of Michigan, speaks during a news conference at Michigan Central Station in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., on Friday, Feb. 4, 2022.

Gretchen Whitmer speaks during a news conference at Michigan Central Station in Detroit, Michigan, on Feb. 4, 2022. Photo: Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Two men were acquitted Friday in a conspiracy scheme to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) in 2020, AP reports.

Driving the news: Jurors said Friday that Brandon Caserta and Daniel Harris were not found guilty, while a unanimous verdict was not reached for Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr., who were also accused of plotting to kidnap the Democratic governor.

  • The four men all faced one charge of a kidnapping conspiracy, with Fox, Croft and Harris also facing charges related to explosives and a firearm. Kidnapping conspiracy and conspiracy to use explosives carry potential life sentences, per AP.
  • Defense attorneys argued that undercover FBI agents tricked the men into agreeing to the conspiracy plot.
  • Federal prosecutors argued, however, that the men planned to capture Whitmer before the FBI operation began.

The big picture: Six men were charged in October in the alleged plot to violently overthrow the government and kidnap Whitmer.

  • The FBI started following the conspiracy in early 2020 via social media channels through which individuals were plotting the violent overthrow of state governments and law enforcement.
  • "The group talked about creating a society that followed the U.S. Bill of Rights and where they could be self-sufficient," according to an inside source to the FBI who attended one of the group's meetings.
  • "They discussed different ways of achieving this goal from peaceful endeavors to violent actions."
  • Whitmer was the target of protests by right-wing groups for implementing strict restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Whitmer criticized former President Trump after reports surfaced that the FBI thwarted the alleged plot to kidnap her and called for national unity.

  • Whitmer said she "made tough choices" to protect the state from the pandemic, but insisted "we are not one another's enemies."
  • "Our head of state has spent the past seven months denying science, ignoring his own health experts, stoking distrust, fomenting anger and giving comfort to those who spread fear and hatred and division," Whitmer said in October of 2020.

State of play: The high-profile trial spanned 20 days since March 8, including jury selection, evidence, final arguments and jury deliberations, per AP.

What they're saying: "Today, Michiganders and Americans — especially our children — are living through the normalization of political violence," JoAnne Huls, Whitmer's chief of staff said in a statement.

  • "There must be accountability and consequences for those who commit heinous crimes. Without accountability, extremists will be emboldened," Huls said.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with new details throughout.

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