Jurors in Michigan on Friday acquitted two men of prosecutorial claims they conspired to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer because of her heavy-handed abuse of the constitutional rights of the state’s residents during COVID.
A mistrial was declared regarding two other defendants.
A jury of six men and six women found Brandon Caserta and Daniel Harris not guilty on all counts, but did not reach verdicts for two other defendants in the trial, Barry Croft and Adams Fox.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge said he was disappointed, but credited the jury with listening “to a lot of evidence.”
He indicated there wasn’t much more he would say at this point. Prosecutors could decide to bring Croft and Fox to trial yet again.
Prosecutors built their case on social media posts and chat messages among the defendants, and presented audio secretly recorded by an FBI informant.
However, the fact that the FBI had a multitude of informants within the group of defendants probably got more attention than some of the other evidence. In fact, defense lawyers had charged before the trial began that their clients were manipulated by those in the pay of the federal government.
Witnesses testified to shooting drills, training and more in which the defendants participated.
Witnesses also claimed they scoped out the governor’s vacation home.
But no attack ever took place and testimony from various witnesses differed.
Joshua Blanchard, a lawyer for Croft, told the jury, “There was no plan to kidnap the governor, and there was no agreement between these four men.”
He blamed the paranoia of the prosecutors for conjuring up a conspiracy using the government’s own informants and undercover agents.
The New York Times said Whitmer “took a more restrictive approach than some other Midwestern governors” regarding COVID rules, and continually blasted President Donald Trump and his actions.
The defendants did discuss their anger at the governor, but the defense said the comments all were free speech, not a crime.
Several defendants pleaded guilty to some charges earlier.
NBC said the various charges included conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, possession of an unregistered device, possession of a rifle, conspiracy and more.
JoAnne Huls, a spokeswoman for Whitmer, lashed out at the jury for creating the “normalization of political violence.”
WND reported as the trial approached that Fox testified about being “pressured” and “manipulated” by government agents to work with an alleged conspiracy.
Defense attorneys explained evidence they acquired “depicts an elaborate tale of FBI entrapment,” wrote Julie Kelly, who has reported extensively on both cases for the website American Greatness.
She pointed out at least a dozen FBI informants were involved in the failed plot to kidnap the Michigan governor, amounting to about one FBI asset per defendant.
“FBI agents handling the informants directed every move,” Kelly writes. “They funded training and reconnaissance trips, and even organized a ‘national militia’ conference in Ohio in June 2020 to lure potential accomplices.”
The case already has seen two government operatives fall in disgrace.
For example, FBI Special Agent Richard Trask, the government’s public face of the investigation, was arrested on a domestic violence charge and later fired and convicted of a misdemeanor. And a government informant, Stephen Robeson, was dropped by federal investigators after he was caught with an illegal sniper rifle.
Government lawyers have claimed their agents were not pushing the defendants to illegal activity in order to entrap them. But the FBI’s reputation has taken a shellacking in recent years because of the involvement of its employees in the debunked “Russiagate” collusion conspiracy theory it made up and worked to promote against President Trump.
The Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee recently were fined by the Federal Election Commission more than $100,000 for paying for opposition research material on that agenda and calling those payments legal fees.
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