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2 men are found guilty of conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Whitmer in 2020

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

A federal judge in Grand Rapids, Mich., has found two men guilty of conspiring to kidnap the state's governor. The plot goes back to the spring of 2020 and the anger over COVID-19 restrictions. Prosecutors say Adam Fox and Barry Croft weren't just interested in protesting the restrictions. They wanted to abduct the governor to send a signal to other politicians and touch off a civil war. Dustin Dwyer of Michigan Radio reports.

DUSTIN DWYER, BYLINE: This was the second trial for Adam Fox and Barry Croft. The first one ended in a hung jury and a mistrial. Two other men were found not guilty. And that's why Christopher Gibbons, the attorney for Adam Fox, said he went into this trial feeling optimistic that his client would be cleared. Tuesday, when the jury delivered a verdict of guilty on all counts, he and Fox didn't see it coming.

CHRISTOPHER GIBBONS: Nobody did. You know, the jury was very difficult to read throughout the entire process. They kept their game faces on. So, you know, here we are.

DWYER: Prosecutors say the men were intent on overthrowing the government and capturing the governor of Michigan to spark a civil war. But Gibbons and other defense attorneys say their clients were angry and high. They were talking crazy, which isn't illegal. It was the FBI's undercover agents and informants, they argued, who engineered the plot and entrapped their clients. And that argument worked the first time around, at least well enough to get a mistrial. But Mark Chutkow, a former federal prosecutor who followed the trial, said the government focused its case the second time.

MARK CHUTKOW: I think the government did a fabulous job. They really used their time well between the trials to construct a stronger rebuttal against the defendant's entrapment defense.

DWYER: And Chutkow says the guilty verdict at this second trial sends a signal at a crucial time that you can disagree with the government, but planning violence is unacceptable.

CHUTKOW: It has to be of some comfort to the government that a jury is going to stand behind them and say that this is not right and we have to stop it.

DWYER: Tuesday after the verdict, Governor Whitmer issued a statement thanking law enforcement and prosecutors for their work in the case and said the verdict proves, quote, "violence and violent threats have no place in our politics." Croft and Fox now face a possible sentence of life in prison. For NPR News, I'm Dustin Dwyer in Grand Rapids. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Dustin Dwyer
Dustin Dwyer is a reporter for a new project at Michigan Radio that will look at improving economic opportunities for low-income children. Previously, he worked as an online journalist for Changing Gears, as a freelance reporter and as Michigan Radio's West Michigan Reporter. Before he joined Michigan Radio, Dustin interned at NPR's Talk of the Nation, wrote freelance stories for The Jackson Citizen-Patriot and completed a Reporting & Writing Fellowship at the Poynter Institute.