GRAND RAPIDS, MI. – A Michigan jury on Thursday heard audio of men charged with conspiring to kidnap Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer while trashing her over COVID-19 policies, and one man talking through an abduction plan.
Prosecutors played recordings, some posted publicly on Facebook and others retrieved covertly by FBI informants, for jurors in the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Michigan. Assistant U.S. attorneys Nils Kessler and Jonathan Roth played the audio to bolster their case that the four defendants – Brandon Caserta, Barry Croft Jr., Adam Fox, and Daniel Harris – took part in a 2020 conspiracy to kidnap Whitmer.
Fox repeatedly posted videos to Facebook criticizing the governor and appearing to call for some sort of action to be taken. The “gym situation is turning into a fiasco,” he said in one June video in which he referred to Whitmer as a “tyrant b****” and suggested offering “constitutional comfort” to gym owners.
According to prosecutors, in a video posted two days later, Fox said, “We want a revolutionary war. We want to get rid of this tyrannical f***ing government.”
Prosecutors also played audio that FBI informant Stephen Robeson captured of Croft explaining explosives and floating a strategy to overwhelm law enforcement and capture the governor. In recordings taken in mid-July, Croft appeared to have built an explosive device from repurposed fireworks and explained to Robeson how one may use it to hold off hostiles.
“It’s going to be absolutely stupid … I’m talking devastating,” Croft said of the explosion produced by what he said was a device filled with explosive powder equivalent to 100-200 rounds of ammunition and modified with BBs.
In one clip, Croft told Robeson that “we need demolition taught to these men quickly.” “Without the ability for explosives, these men aren’t going to have a chance against these guys,” Croft said.
Croft floated a plan to capture the governor; a coordinated attack by three groups could abduct her. One group would “rain down” fire on law enforcement while another blew up a tower. In all the commotion, a third group would go for the target, who Croft identified as Whitmer. “All I’m going to have to possibly neutralize” is her armed guard, Croft said.
The conversations between Croft and Robeson took place between July 10-12 near a small town in Wisconsin. Harris’ attorney Julia Kelly pointed out in cross-examination of one witness that Robeson’s wife in one of the clips was heard asking if someone was “too high to stand,” suggesting that it was a reference to marijuana. The defense attorneys’ cases rest on accusations that their clients were entrapped by federal agents and informants.
On Wednesday, Croft attorney Joshua Blanchard said that Robeson plied men with marijuana to get them “worked up” and said Croft’s statements amounted to “stoned crazy talk.” Blanchard said that Croft has made wild statements about the Egyptian pyramids and suggested that Canadian space lasers have sparked wildfires in the United States. Croft has also come up with schemes using Hollywood “electromagnetic pulse devices” and floated carrying Whitmer via “kite.”
The federal government has sought to bar Robeson from testifying, accusing him of acting as a “double-agent” aiding both law enforcement and potentially taking part in the plot to kidnap the governor, which two men have already pleaded guilty to.
“[Robeson] has potentially committed offenses for which he has not yet been charged, including aiding and abetting the defendants, and conspiring with them to kidnap the Governor,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office wrote recently. “Whether he intended to help with the kidnapping, obstruct justice after the fact, or simply protect himself from retaliation is unclear at the moment. But his sworn testimony could provide the necessary proof of intent to pursue new charges against him here or in state court.”