The first of two men convicted in a federal trial for a conspiracy to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) has been sentenced to spend more than a decade and half in prison.
In August, a federal jury found Michigan resident Adam Fox and his co-conspirator Barry Croft guilty of plotting to kidnap Whitmer and use a weapon of mass destruction. Members of the group discussed using explosive devices to divert police from the vicinity of Whitmer’s vacation cottage near Elk Rapids, Michigan, allegedly considering placing it under an interstate overpass near a pedestrian boardwalk.
Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division declared that Fox’s 16-year sentence signals that the government will 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 in a statement. “Today’s sentence reflects the Department of Justice’s unwavering commitment to protecting our elected officials, law enforcement officers, and dedicated public servants from criminal threats and violence — and to holding the perpetrators of such acts fully accountable under the law.”
The first attempt to prosecute Fox and Croft ended in a mistrial, after a federal jury struggled over whether to believe they were entrapped by the government. The jury acquitted their co-defendants Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta.
Despite the false start, federal prosecutors insisted that Fox deserved the toughest sentence available.
“When the aim of that kidnapping is to terrorize the people and affect the conduct of government, it is so pernicious that only the most serious sanction is sufficient,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils R. Kessler wrote in a blistering sentencing memo.
Early after their indictment, the men claimed that an FBI informant played an outsized role in the plot, helping choose targets and methods toward their illegal aims. Former President Donald Trump appeared to take the accused terrorists’ side, calling the conspiracy “fake.” Their prosecution pointed to a trend in a practice known as preventative policing, involving the use of informants to infiltrate extremist groups and smoke out terrorist attacks before they happen.
Civil libertarian critics liken the trend to “pre-crime,” and its defenders say that the tactic avoids tragedy at the hands of some who would otherwise put their rage into action.
Former U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge for the Western District of Michigan, who was appointed to oversee the trial, made prevention a key focus of his statement.
“Responding to domestic terrorism has been a priority for the Department of Justice since its founding,” Birge said. “Rest assured: we will spare no effort to disrupt plots like these and hold those responsible accountable to the law.”
Though Fox and Croft’s cases were being prosecuted federally, a different and related tranche of cases are being pursued in state court.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) chimed in on Fox’s sentencing, which she said would send “a clear message that domestic terrorism will not be tolerated.”
Two other men pleaded guilty before trial and cooperated with the government: Ty Garbin, 27, who received a 2.5-year sentence, and Kaleb Franks, 28, who received a four-year term.
Croft is scheduled to be sentenced on Wednesday.
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