Jury finds two in Whitmer kidnapping plot not guilty, mistrial declared on two others

4 white men
From left, Barry Croft, Daniel Harris, Adam Fox and Brandon Caserta. Photo credit Kent County Sheriff and Delaware Department of Justice

GRAND RAPIDS (WWJ) -- A jury reached a verdict Friday afternoon on two of four men charged in U.S. District Court in alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The jury found Brandon Caserta, of Canton, and Daniel Harris, of Lake Orion, not guilty on all charges in the case.

The jury was unable to come to a unanimous decision on the charges against Adam Fox, of Potterville, and Barry Croft, of Bear, Delaware — the accused ringleaders — and a mistrial was declared for those two.

Judge Robert Jonker had asked the jurors to continue working on the deadlocked charges over lunch on Friday, but they did not come to an agreement.

WWJ Legal Analyst Charlie Langton called the trial's outcome an "unbelievable loss for the government."

"The government tried, really tried, to get these four on the kidnapping of the governor, the attempt, and they failed. That is a huge failure!" Langton said. "And if we go back to the Hutaree case, these militias, what was the result in that case? Not guilty. What was the result in this case with militias and guns? Not guilty. Unbelievable."

"The government's gonna have to do a better job."

All men faced a kidnapping conspiracy charge, while three faced addition counts including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, and weapons charges.

Prosecutors alleged that group was involved in anti-government extremism and angry about Whitmer's COVID-19 restrictions. On the other side, defense lawyers argued that the men were manipulated by an informant who was taking direction from the FBI.

In a statement, JoAnne Huls, Chief of Staff to Gov. Whitmer, said this trial's outcome could bolden political extremists.

“Today, Michiganders and Americans — especially our children — are living through the normalization of political violence. The plot to kidnap and kill a governor may seem like an anomaly. But we must be honest about what it really is: the result of violent, divisive rhetoric that is all too common across our country. There must be accountability and consequences for those who commit heinous crimes. Without accountability, extremists will be emboldened.

“The governor remains focused on her work on behalf of Michigan and all Michiganders. That includes addressing violence and threats to our democracy. We appreciate the prosecutors and law enforcement officers for their work on this case.”

It's not yet clear if Fox and Croft will face a new trial.

Former U.S. Attorney for the eastern district of Michigan, Matthew Schneider, for his reaction, said the government clearly put a lot of time and effort into the case, only to fail.

"So now it's up to the government if they want to decide: Do they want to start all over again and charged these guys (Fox and Croft) and go through another trial?" Schneider told WWJ. "That's what we're going to have to wait and find out."

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