Acquittal of two militiamen accused of wanting to kidnap the governor of Michigan

It is a bitter failure for the prosecutor’s team. Two far-right activists accused of plotting to kidnap Democratic Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer were acquitted on Friday by a jury in this northern US state, which could not rule on the guilt of the other two defendants.

After a month of trial in the federal court of Grand Rapids and five days of deliberations, the jurors acquitted Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta, without being able to reach a unanimous verdict for Adam Fox and Barry Croft. Judge Robert Jonker therefore declared the trial void for the latter.

The four men were part of a group violently opposed to the restrictive measures adopted by the governor to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, and which wanted to start a “civil war” in the United States, according to the prosecution, by kidnapping the leader and judge her for “treachery”.

“Wolverine’s Guardians”

Their arrest in October 2020 illustrated the growing threat posed by radical right-wing militias, which was then confirmed during the assault on the Capitol in Washington on January 6, 2021. Several members of far-right groups were indicted for their role in the attack on the headquarters of the United States Congress.

Among the rest of the group, two activists have pleaded guilty, one of whom has already been sentenced to six years in prison. Eight others, accused of complicity, will be tried in Michigan state court.

According to the prosecution, the four activists accused the governor of being “a tyrant” and had contacted a local group, the “Wolverine Watchmen”, to train in order to kidnap and try her.

Undercover FBI Agents

They had decided to capture her in her second home in the Great Lakes region, where they had gone twice for scouting. They had taken a picture of a bridge they wanted to blow up with explosives to slow down the arrival of the police.

Adam Fox, Daniel Harris, Brandon Caserta and Barry Croft pleaded not guilty. They claim to have been trapped by undercover federal police agents and informants who, according to them, pushed them to act, train, arm themselves.

Adam Fox was a “marginal”, without a home or money, who “wanted to be cool”, pleaded his lawyer Christopher Gibbons, assuring that he had only advanced “insane ideas” during drunken and smoky evenings. The prosecutor, Jonathan Roth, affirmed on the contrary that the group was “oriented towards action” and the “desire for a second civil war”.

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