Barry Croft Jr. sentenced in Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer kidnap plot

Explanation

A man accused of being one of the masterminds behind the 2020 kidnapping of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the bombing of a bridge in hopes of sparking civil war was sentenced Wednesday to 19½ years in prison. was indicted on federal charges in the most closely watched domestic terrorism case in recent years.

Barry Croft, 47, of Delaware, was described by prosecutors in a federal courtroom in Grand Rapids on Wednesday as the “spiritual leader” and “idea guy” of the plot, but it ended after the altercation. Informants and undercover FBI agents join a group of people allied with the armed right-wing group Wolverine Watchmen.

Croft and his accomplice, Adam Fox, 39, of Michigan, were found guilty of two counts of conspiracy by a federal jury after a second trial in August, with Croft also found guilty of an additional weapons charge. Prosecutors described the two men as angry over the covid-19 lockdown and alleged “oppression” by elected officials, and said they channeled their anger into a violent plot they wanted to see turn into a bloody “revolution.”

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The case highlighted the growing risk of extremist violence, particularly from the far right, at a point of deep political division in the country. Federal prosecutors said the seriousness of the conspiracy made the defendants face life in prison. Croft’s defense argued that he was less involved than Fox and was not seen as a true leader among the group.

Violent tactics by the far right have escalated in the Capitol after last year’s statehouse trial.

Fox was sentenced to 16 years in prison on Tuesday, while two other defendants pleaded guilty in 2021 and early 2022 and agreed to testify against Croft and Fox. Two other defendants were acquitted in a federal trial in April.

Fourteen people were eventually arrested by state and federal authorities in October 2020, as investigators collected weapons, trained and attempted to kidnap Whitmer from a vacation home in northern Michigan, and his safety and rights. revealed that he had planned to blow up the bridge in order to undermine the security forces. Answer before the 2020 election.

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U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, Andrew Birge, detailed the charges against six people accused of trying to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. (Video: The Washington Post)

At Wednesday’s hearing, Croft’s attorney, Joshua Blanchard, acknowledged the case’s impact on Whitmer, the public and elected officials, but said Croft’s role did not warrant a life sentence. He described his client as an isolated truck driver who went down a “rabbit hole of conspiracy” while living in an echo chamber.

“The government painted a picture of Mr Croft as a radical before the summer of 2020, perhaps rightly so. He said horrible and horrible things. “But I can tell the court that Mr. Croft is having a hard time listening to that,” Blanchard said.

Federal prosecutor Nils Kessler said Kroft had adopted an even more “toxic” ideology than his colleague, and that he still showed no remorse, highlighted by Kroft continuing to give interviews from prison. On Tuesday evening, one of them called the government “illegal”.

“He could at least admit that the ideas were wrong, but not because he still held them,” Kessler said.

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U.S. District Judge Robert J. Jonker, explaining why he did not receive a life sentence, said in the end no one was hurt and no infrastructure was destroyed.

“The end of the conspiracy never came to pass, thank God. And it will never be done because law enforcement will never let it go that far,” Jonker said, referring to embedded agents.

But the judge also noted that Croft was in a “different tranche” than his co-defendants and had been involved in anti-government activities for a long time.

“I’m not convinced that what we’ve seen yet is a meaningful change from Mr. Croft,” Jonker said.

In court Wednesday, Croft declined to speak on the advice of his attorneys.

While Croft’s conviction ended federal charges against six defendants, several other alleged accomplices still face state courts. In October, three men were found guilty in Jackson County Circuit Court of violating Michigan’s anti-terrorism laws enacted after the September 11, 2001, attacks. Pete Music, 45; Joseph Morrison, 28; and Paul Bellar, 24, were sentenced to a minimum of 12 years, 10 years and seven years for aiding and abetting the scheme.

Five other men are awaiting trial on state charges in Antrim County, the northern Michigan region where Whitmer’s vacation home is located.

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