Updated Aug 23, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Jury finds 2 men guilty of conspiring to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Aug. 2.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Aug. 2. Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

A jury on Tuesday found two men guilty of conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) in 2020, AP reports.

Why it matters: Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. were also found guilty of conspiring to obtain a weapon of mass destruction in the form of a bomb, which they planned to use to destroy a bridge as part of the kidnapping plot.

  • The jury found Croft guilty of knowingly possessing an unregistered destructive device, specifically an improvised explosive wrapped in pennies for shrapnel.
  • Kidnapping conspiracy and the conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction are punishable by up to life in prison.

Croft and Fox were among six men charged in October 2020 over a plot, which the FBI disrupted, to violently overthrow Michigan's government and kidnap Whitmer.

  • This was the second trial related to the plot after a unanimous verdict was not reached for Fox and Croft in a previous trial.
  • Jurors acquitted two of the men, Brandon Caserta and Daniel Harris, in April, while the two other men, Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks, pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in 2021 and 2022, respectively.

What they're saying: “Today’s verdict confirms this plot was very real and very dangerous,” former U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge for the Western District of Michigan, who was appointed to oversee the trial, said in a statement.

  • “These men posed a threat not only to the Governor personally but also to bystanders. No elected leader should have to contend with what Governor Whitmer faced here," Birge added.
  • "She deserves to live in safety, not in fear, just like everyone else in our State. All of our elected leaders deserve that, and the Justice Department will not tolerate violent extremist plots of this nature seeking to undermine our democracy.”

The big picture: The FBI started tracking the conspiracy in early 2020 through social media platforms.

  • The men began the plot in part over Whitmer's implementation of restrictions meant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
  • In August and September of 2020, members of the group staked out Whitmer's vacation home in Antrim County near Elk Rapids and discussed kidnapping or killing her.
  • The men trained for the operation at a property near Luther, Michigan, and built a structure that resembled Whitmer’s vacation home, according to Garbin's plea agreement.
  • Garbin was sentenced to six years in prison in August 2021, and Franks is awaiting sentencing.
  • After the six men were charged, Whitmer blamed then-President Trump for stoking anger against coronavirus restrictions and encouraging protests in Michigan at the time.

Go deeper: FBI chief expresses alarm at rise in politically driven violence in U.S.

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

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