GRAND REPIDS, Michac. – Introductory statements are due to begin on Wednesday in the trial of four men who, according to prosecutors, were preparing the abduction of Michigan Gov. Gitchen Whitmer in 2020 because they were angry at the pandemic restrictions she imposed.
Prosecutors said they would provide secret records of people discussing the plan and other evidence, including that they monitored Whitmer’s vacation and conducted weapons training.
Lawyers claim that the men deny conspiracy to kidnap Whitmer. They signaled protection from the trap by criticizing the government’s use of FBI secret agents and confidential informants.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker told potential jurors: “This is not an ordinary criminal case” due to unusual allegations of violence against an elected official.
Eleven women and seven men were selected as jurors, with 12 to decide the case and six deputies, although the court on Tuesday did not specify which jurors are deputies. Before they left the courtroom, U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker told the jury to stay away on social media and not discuss the case with the family.
“Put them on pause,” he said.
Conference tables along one wall of the courtroom, lined with wood paneling, crowded with various groups of lawyers and aides, are one testament to the complexity of the case, which juries must consider over the next few weeks. The strategies of different defense teams are not perfectly coordinated, so lawyers can often express different objections or motions or ask questions during cross-examination, trying to score different points with the jury.
Prosecutors say the men – Adam Fox, Brendan Caserta, Barry Croft Jr. and Daniel Harris – came up with a plan to kidnap Whitmer in 2020, when there were orders to stay home and the economy was limited. They are accused of taking important steps for months, including secret reports, forest shooting exercises and a night trip to northern Michigan to explore her second home and figure out how to blow up the bridge.
At the time, Whitmer was making fun of then-President Donald Trump over his administration’s reaction to COVID-19. Her critics, meanwhile, regularly protested in the Capitol of Michigan, killing the streets around the state building and legally carrying semi-automatic rifles into the building.
The FBI said it had thwarted a kidnapping conspiracy by arresting six people in October 2020. Two of them, Ty Garbin and Caleb Frankspleaded guilty and will act as key witnesses for the government, giving jurors an idea of what was planned.
Garbin said Fox, the alleged instigator, wanted the men to take away a $ 4,000 explosive large enough to destroy a bridge near Whitmer’s house and distract police during the abduction.
Garbin and Franks insist that no one in the group acted due to the excessive influence of agents or undercover informants.
Whitmer, who is seeking re-election this year, rarely speaks publicly about the case and does not expect to be involved in the process. She has accused Trump for inciting distrust and inciting anger over restrictions on coronavirus and refusing to condemn hate groups and right-wing extremists as those accused of the plot. She said he was also an accomplice in the deadly uprising at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Separately, authorities in the state court are prosecuting eight people accused of aiding the group.
White reported from Detroit and Burnett from Chicago. Reporter John Flasher made his contribution from Traverse City, Michigan.
Find full coverage in the AP trial of Whitmer’s abduction conspiracy at: /hub/whitmer-kidnap-plot-trial
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