A jury on Friday acquitted two men accused of orchestrating a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. A decision was not reached for two other accused men, and a mistrial was declared.
After a month-long trial, Daniel Harris, 24, and Brandon Caserta, 33, were found not guilty of federal charges for allegedly conspiring to kidnap Whitmer. Adam Fox, 38, and Barry Croft, 46, the alleged ringleaders of the plot, also faced federal charges, but US District Judge Robert Jonker declared a mistrial for them after the jury failed to reach a verdict.
The four men were accused of the 2020 kidnap plot, which entailed kidnapping Whitmer from her northern Michigan vacation home and holding her for ransom in a remote location after blowing up a bridge to interfere with police response. Fox even ordered $4,000 worth of explosives “from an undercover FBI agent posing as a co-conspirator.”
The men were arrested in early October 2020 before carrying out their plan that same month.
Two other men were also involved in the plot, but had pleaded guilty in a previous case and testified against Harris, Caserta, Fox, and Croft in the trial.
Prosecutors argued the men plotted to kidnap Whitmer because they were angry over her stringent COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions. Defense attorneys argued the men were influenced by undercover FBI agents and informants.
The indictment had accused the men of engaging in “domestic terrorism” with preparation for the plot that included “practiced combat tactics, including assaulting motor vehicles using semiautomatic assault rifles and live ammunition.”
In preparation to carry out the plot, the men had spied on Whitmer’s lake house on at least two occasions. They discussed the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), a projectile launcher, and other weapons they’d use to overtake Whitmer’s security detail. The plot led Fox, Croft, and Harris to be charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction.
After the verdict was reached, Whitmer’s office released a statement saying, “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.”
“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,” the statement added.