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Despite Evidence in Whitmer Kidnap Plot, Jury Acquits 2 Suspects And Is Hung On Other Two

Despite Evidence in Whitmer Kidnap Plot, Jury Acquits 2 Suspects And Is Hung On Other Two

Despite hearing recordings of their plans, a jury on Friday acquitted two men of all charges in a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer but couldn’t reach verdicts against the two alleged leaders, a stunning defeat for the government after a weeks-long trial that centered on a remarkable FBI sting operation just before the 2020 election.

The results were announced a few hours after the jury said it was struggling to find unanimity on all 10 charges. The judge on the fifth day of deliberations told the panel to keep working, but jurors emerged again after lunch to say they still were deadlocked on some counts.

Daniel Harris, 24, and Brandon Caserta, 33, were found not guilty of conspiracy. In addition, Harris was acquitted of charges related to explosives and a gun. The jury could not reach verdicts for Adam Fox, 38, and Barry Croft Jr., 46, which means the government can put them on trial again. “Obviously we’re disappointed with the outcome. … We have two defendants that are awaiting trial and we’ll get back to work on that,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge said.

It’s a confusing and frustrating outcome for the Governor, especially since another man involved with the plot had been sentenced to six years in prison for his role. During 13 days of testimony, prosecutors offered evidence from undercover agents, a crucial informant, and two men who pleaded guilty to the plot. Jurors also read and heard secretly recorded conversations, violent social media posts, and chat messages.

Prosecutors said the group was “steeped in anti-government extremism” and furious over Whitmer’s pandemic restrictions. There was evidence of a crudely built “shoot house” to practice going in and out of her vacation home, and a night ride by Croft, Fox, and covert operatives to check the property. But their defense lawyers portrayed the men as “weekend warriors” prone to “big, wild talk and often stoned on marijuana”. They said agents and informants tricked and cajoled the men into targeting the Governor while they were under the influence.

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Separately, authorities in state court are prosecuting eight men who are accused of aiding the group that was on trial in federal court.

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