AP – Two men accused of crafting a plan to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in 2020 and ignite a national rebellion are facing a second trial this week, months after a jury could not reach a verdict on the pair while acquitting two others.
The result in April was a blow to federal prosecutors, who had set out to show that extremists were committed to snatching Whitmer and causing chaos close to the election between Joe Biden and then-president Donald Trump.
The trial of Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr means another public airing of secretly recorded conversations, text messages and chilling social media posts.
It also comes at a time of intense news coverage of the United States (US) House committee investigating the January 6, 2021, riot by Trump supporters at the Capitol.
Jurors will see how undercover FBI agents and informants had infiltrated the Michigan group. In response, defence attorneys again will argue that Fox and Croft were shielded by the First Amendment when they expressed malicious opinions about government and were entrapped every step of the way.
“The stakes are higher because the government has doubled down,” former US attorney Matthew Schneider in Detroit, said of the second trial. “They’re going to try this all over again, and the government’s view is, ‘We’re going to prevail’.”
Also in the background: Whitmer’s re-election campaign for a second term is heating up.
Jury selection starts today in federal court in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “This is like deja vu all over again,” US District Judge Robert Jonker said.
The government alleges that Fox, who was living under a Grand Rapids-area vacuum shop, and Croft, a trucker from Bear, Delaware, wanted to target Whitmer as well as other public officials over their tough restrictions during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A handmade “shoot house” was erected for weekend gun drills. There is evidence that Croft, Fox and undercover operatives took a night ride to northern Michigan to check Whitmer’s second home and discuss putting an explosive under a bridge. Two men who pleaded guilty will testify again for prosecutors.
Fox and Croft are charged with conspiracy. The first trial ended in a mistrial when the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict against them. The jury, however, acquitted Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta.