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Two acquitted in alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, others to get new trial

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JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images

A jury has acquitted two men and failed to reach a verdict for two others accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D).

The Grand Rapids jury found Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta not guilty on all charges and were unable to come to a decision on the charges against Adam Fox and Barry Croft, resulting in a mistrial. Fox and Croft can be tried again, WDIV-TV reports.

All four men were accused of conspiring to kidnap Whitmer in what the FBI described as a plot to violently overthrow the state government in Michigan because of the state's COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. There were 10 charges in the case: One against Caserta, two against Fox, three against Croft, and four against Harris. Aside from the main charge of conspiracy, there were counts related to explosives and a firearm.

Six men were originally charged in the case but two, Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks, pleaded guilty before trial.

Whitmer's chief of staff JoAnne Huls released a statement Friday blasting the jury's decision.

“Today, Michiganders and Americans—especially our children—are living through the normalization of political violence. The plot to kidnap and kill a governor may seem like an anomaly. But we must be honest about what it really is: the result of violent, divisive rhetoric that is all too common across our country. There must be accountability and consequences for those who commit heinous crimes. Without accountability, extremists will be emboldened," she said.

“The governor remains focused on her work on behalf of Michigan and all Michiganders. That includes addressing violence and threats to our democracy. We appreciate the prosecutors and law enforcement officers for their work on this case," she added.

The alleged attempt to kidnap Whitmer was uncovered by authorities in October 2020, with the aid of multiple informants and undercover FBI agents. More than a dozen men allegedly involved in the plot were arrested on federal and state charges.

Prosecutors said they sought to capture Whitmer from her vacation home and transport her to Wisconsin, where they would have put her on "trial."

Defense lawyers argued that the defendants were goaded into the plot by informants and undercover FBI agents. The government disputed those claims with evidence showing that the men had discussed abducting Whitmer before the FBI became involved. Prosecutors said these discussions went beyond talk and that the men scouted Whitmer's summer home and tested explosives.

Garbin, who plead guilty to conspiring to kidnap Whitmer in January 2021, was the prosecution's star witness. He testified against the other men, claiming that they had all intended to spark a civil war and that no one had convinced him or any others involved to kidnap the governor. Defense attorneys attempted to discredit his testimony with questions about his plea deal, suggesting that he was testifying against the others to save himself.

Harris and Caserta were freed after the verdict was read. Fox and Croft have been remanded into custody to await a new trial.

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