The decade's most triggering comedy
GRAND RAPIDS, MI. — The trial into the alleged conspiracy to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) opened Tuesday with beginning the process of selecting jurors.
Chief Judge Robert Jonker of the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Michigan opened proceedings on Tuesday talking to a crowd of prospective jurors, recognizing the inconvenience of jury duty, especially in a trial he estimates to take four to six weeks, but emphasizing the crucial role juries play in the U.S. legal system.
The jury selection process got underway with a panel of 18 potential jurists fielding questions, sometimes individually and sometimes as a group, from Jonker. As some potential jurists were dismissed, others were called up to take their place at the jury box. Some left after pleading hardship juggling jobs, medical operations, and other responsibilities while committing to a trial that could last well over a month.
One potential jurist, a nurse who was dismissed, told the court she had two planned vacations coming in the near future, the first breaks from work she’s planned since the outbreak of COVID-19.
Other potential jurists were dismissed after claiming to have strong opinions in support of or against Whitmer. While Jonker emphasized that strong opinions are not disqualifying by themselves, the candidates demurred or hedged when asked if they could put their biases aside. One candidate was dismissed after he told the court that he believed the defendants were “guilty.”
Federal and state law enforcement officials charged 13 people in October 2020 in connection with an alleged plot to kidnap Whitmer over her governance through the COVID-19 pandemic. Four men — Brandon Caserta, Barry Croft Jr., Adam Fox, and Daniel Harris — are set to stand trial in the coming days and weeks on charges of conspiracy.
Croft, Fox, and Harris face an additional charge of attempting to use a “weapon of mass destruction.” Croft and Harris have been charged with possessing an unregistered destructive device. Harris has also been slapped with a charge of possessing an unregistered short barrel rifle.
A 16-page indictment details a plot devised in rural Michigan and concrete steps taken to prepare to kidnap the governor while potentially blowing up a bridge and making a getaway in a case that federal prosecutors say amounts to “domestic terrorism.” Caserta, Croft, Fox, and Harris have pleaded not guilty, and their defense teams have signaled that they plan to argue that the FBI and its agents entrapped the men.
Fox’s attorney, Christopher Gibbons, argued in a court filing: “Like music producers seeking out young, talented, musicians that can be combined into a money-making act, each of these defendants was selected and groomed by the government’s agents and informants for their role as member of this ‘conspiracy.’”
“Adam Fox did not reach any tangible, credible, agreement to accomplish either the kidnapping of the Governor of Michigan, nor the use of a weapon of mass destruction in the process of that kidnapping. In addition, to the extent that Adam Fox did ever entertain such dialogue, he was constantly in the presence of, encouraged, pressured, or otherwise controlled by an informant or undercover employee of the FBI,” Gibbons wrote.