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Last Federal Defendant Standing in Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Kidnapping Case Gets Nearly Two Decades Behind Bars

Barry Croft and Gretchen Whitmer

Barry Croft and Gretchen Whitmer

The last federal defendant in the plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer whose fate had not yet been decided will spend nearly two decades behind bars.

Barry Croft, a 47-year-old from Delaware, is one of two men convicted by a jury of conspiring to whisk Whitmer away from her vacation home and detonate an explosive device nearby to create a diversion. On Wednesday, Croft received a 235-month sentence, just under 20 years in prison and a harsher sentence than the 16-year term dealt to his co-conspirator Adam Fox a day earlier.

On Tuesday, the Justice Department’s Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen — the top official at the National Security Division — declared that their cases show prosecutors’ determination to protect public officials.

“Mr. Fox, and his confederate Mr. Croft, were convicted by a jury of masterminding a plot to kidnap the Governor of Michigan and to use weapons of mass destruction against responding law enforcement,” Olsen said after the former’s sentencing, which he said reflected the DOJ’s “unwavering commitment to protecting our elected officials, law enforcement officers, and dedicated public servants from criminal threats and violence.”

Olson did not deliver a separate statement following Croft’s sentence. Both men must serve five years of supervised release after they are released from prison. There is no parole in the federal system.

The development closes the federal docket on one of the most high-profile and controversial cases of domestic terrorism in recent memory.

In the lead up to the 2020 presidential election, the Justice Department announced the indictment of six men in connection with the conspiracy. Court papers showed the defendants seething with anger about Whitmer’s COVID-19 policies during the brunt of the pandemic, and then-President Donald Trump stoked unrest about social distancing in the Great Lakes State with the tweet: “LIBERATE MICHIGAN.” Trump would later vilify Whitmer again after he lost the election in her state — and falsely declared that he’d won.

Before trial, two of the defendants — Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks — pleaded guilty, and the other four prepared entrapment defenses: Fox, Croft, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta. They had mixed success. All focused on the role of FBI informants in infiltrating the group, monitoring their actions, and playing an allegedly active role in the conspiracy. Harris and Caserta ultimately persuaded their first federal jury to acquit them. The same jury deadlocked as to Fox and Croft, who had to stand a second trial.

Trump and his supporters seized upon the prosecution’s setback, and the former president called the plot “fake.” A second jury found that Fox and Croft’s criminal liability was, in fact, real.

Three other defendants were convicted by a Michigan jury in a state trial: Joseph Morrison, Paul Bellar and Pete Musico.

After that verdict, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) credited law enforcement from stopping a tragedy: “The prosecution of these cases prevented horrific acts from taking the lives of innocent people.

“Terrorist attacks and mass shootings are not spontaneous events, they are the result of planning, plotting and amassing resources in a build-up to violent acts,” she said.

(Croft’s mugshot via Kent County, Michigan, jail; Whitmer photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."