Prosecutors failed to prove that four men conspired to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) ahead of the 2020 election.
A West Michigan jury reached a split verdict on Friday in the cases of Brandon Caserta, Barry Croft, Adam Fox, and Daniel Harris, all of whom were charged with allegedly conspiring to kidnap Whitmer and faced a potential life sentence in prison if convicted. The jury found Caserta and Harris not guilty of the conspiracy charge, and both men were allowed to walk free.
The jury could not reach a verdict on Croft’s or Fox’s conspiracy charges.
The decision is a major blow to prosecutors who arrested and charged six men in the alleged plot. Two men, Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks, pleaded guilty to the charge and testified against the defendants during trial.
Jury deliberations began on Monday. Closing arguments in the case wrapped up last week on Friday.
“In America, there’s a lot of things you can do. You can criticize the government publicly, absolutely,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler told jurors at the time. “If you don’t like the government’s policies, you can protest them. If you don’t like elected leaders, you can vote them out at the ballot box. What you can’t do is kidnap them, kill them, or blow them up.”
“Barry Croft drove across the country four times to plan this. Adam Fox came up [to Whitmer’s cottage] twice. It wasn’t just protected speech,” Kessler told the jury, adding the group took efforts to conceal their plan. “They weren’t going to protests. They were specifically keeping a low profile so that nobody would know what they were up to.”
A team of defense lawyers argued that their clients were innocent of committing conspiracy and, to the extent that a conspiracy may have existed, the FBI had illegally manipulated their clients into it. Defense attorneys claimed that FBI agents and informants sought to prolong the investigation into the conspiracy for personal or professional reasons instead of following FBI policy regarding when to drop an investigation.
Attorneys went after FBI informant Dan Chappel, the cornerstone of the case who recorded hundreds of hours-worth of audio of the conspirators from March to October 2020. The defense emphasized the roughly $54,000 Chappel received from the FBI in reimbursements and compensation for aiding the investigation for seven months. As The Daily Wire reported after Chappel testified last month:
[Croft attorney Joshua Blanchard] brought out a receipt showing that Chappel had requested and received reimbursements from the FBI for a roughly $3,400 Microsoft Surface Book laptop, $190 laptop docking station, $20 mouse, and an $85 Surface Pen. Chappel also spent, and was reimbursed, about $205 for an extended warranty on the laptop. Blanchard introduced another receipt, which was not presented to the jury over uncensored personal information, showing Chappel was also reimbursed for a Samsung Galaxy Smartwatch.
The defense team was also unable to secure testimony from another FBI informant and three FBI agents involved in the investigation. All were accused of personal or professional misconduct not having to do with the case, with the exception of the informant, who prosecutors said acted as a “double-agent” against the government’s interests.