2 men acquitted, jury hung for 2 more – Twin Cities

Bestinau got that-

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A jury on Friday acquitted two men of all charges in a plot to kidnap Michigan government Gretchen Whitmer but failed to rule against the two alleged leaders, a stunning defeat for the government after a weeks-long trial centered on a notable FBI operation just before the 2020 election.

The results came a few hours after the jury said it was struggling to reach a consensus on all ten charges. The judge told the panel on the fifth day of deliberation that they should continue to work, but after lunch, the jurors came forward again to say they were still deadlocked on some points.

From left, Barry Croft, Daniel Harris, Adam Fox and Brandon Caserta. (Kent County Sheriff and Delaware Department of Justice via AP, File)

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 was unable to rule on Adam Fox, 38, and Barry Croft Jr., 46, meaning the government could try them again.

“Of course we are disappointed with the result. … We have two defendants awaiting trial and we will work on that again,” US Attorney Andrew Birge said.

Harris and Caserta hugged their lawyers when U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker said they were free after 18 months in prison awaiting trial. Relatives gasped a little earlier and wept with joy as the verdicts were read.

Their 2020 Michigan arrests came amid turmoil in the US during a year that began with pandemic lockdowns and then shifted to armed Capitol protests over COVID-19 restrictions ordered by Whitmer and other governors. In late May, anger over racial injustice and the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police erupted into demonstrations in rural cities.

In a Grand Rapids courtroom, during 13 days of testimony, prosecutors offered evidence from undercover officers, a key informant and two men who pleaded guilty to the plot. Jurors also read and secretly heard recorded conversations, violent social media posts and instant messages.

Ty Garbin, who has pleaded guilty and is serving a six-year prison term, said the plan was to get hold of Whitmer and cause enough chaos to start a civil war before the election that would prevent Joe Biden from winning the presidency.

Garbin and Kaleb Franks, who also pleaded guilty and testified before the government, were among six arrested in October 2020 when they raised $4,000 for an explosive device to blow up a bridge, according to the trial and any police response. to thwart a kidnapping. testimony.

Prosecutors said the group was steeped in anti-government extremism and outraged by Whitmer’s pandemic restrictions. There was evidence of a rough-built “shooting house” for practice going in and out of her vacation home, and an overnight drive by Croft, Fox, and secret agents to check the property.

But defense attorneys portrayed the men as gullible weekend warriors prone to big, wild talk and often stoned from marijuana. They said officers and informants tricked the men into attacking the governor.

During closing arguments a week ago, Fox’s attorney Christopher Gibbons said the plan was “utter nonsense” and begged the jurors to be the “firewall” against the government.

Harris was the only defendant to testify in his own defense, repeatedly telling jurors “absolutely not” when asked if he had pointed it at the governor.

“I think it’s unscrupulous what the FBI has done,” Caserta’s attorney, Michael Hills, said outside the court. “And I think the jury just sent them a message loud and clear that these tactics — we’re not going to approve what they’ve done here.”

Gibbons said Harris and Caserta’s acquittals revealed some serious flaws in the government’s case.

“We are ready for another trial. … We will eventually get what we wanted out of this, which is the truth and the justice that I believe Adam is entitled to,” Gibbons said.

Michigan Lt. gov. Garlin Gilchrist said the “outcome is disappointing.” Whitmer’s office released a statement from its chief of staff saying Americans are “living through the normalization of political violence.”

“The plot to kidnap and kill a governor may seem like an anomaly. But we have to be honest about what it really is: the result of violent, divisive rhetoric that is all too common in our country,” said JoAnne Huls. “There must be accountability and consequences for those who commit heinous crimes. Without accountability, extremists will be encouraged.”

The deliberations resumed earlier Friday with a court official handing the jurors a large plastic bag of pennies known as Exhibit 291. The pennies were requested before the jurors went home on Thursday.

Pennies taped to commercial fireworks were intended as shrapnel against Whitmer’s security team, according to the government.

The trial spanned 20 days since March 8, including jury selection, evidence, closing arguments and jury deliberations. Croft is from Bear, Delaware, while the others are from Michigan.

Whitmer, a Democrat, rarely talks about the plot publicly, though during her tenure she referred to “surprises” that seemed “something out of fiction” when she ran for reelection on March 17.

She has blamed former President Donald Trump for fueling anger over coronavirus restrictions and rejecting right-wing extremists like those charged in the case.

A jury of six women and six men heard the case, as well as four deputies. Little is known about them. For privacy reasons, Jonker ordered that they be identified only by numbers. Two jurors were fired during the trial due to illness.

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

Find AP’s full coverage of the Whitmer kidnapping case at: https://apnews.com/hub/whitmer-kidnap-plot-trial

White reported from Detroit. Associated Press reporters Sara Burnett in Chicago and Dave Eggert in Grand Rapids contributed to this report.

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