Jury acquits 2 men accused in Michigan Gov. Whitmer kidnapping plot, deadlocks on 2 others

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Two of four men were acquitted Friday in a conspiracy to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2020, motivated by fury at the Democrat’s tough COVID-19 restrictions early in the pandemic.

The jury’s verdicts against Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta were read in the federal court in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in the case presided over by U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker. Jurors said they couldn’t agree on verdicts again Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. Prosecutors described Fox as a ringleader of an anti-government group.

Earlier in the day, the jurors said that there are several counts which the deliberative body are deadlocked on. Testimony began on March 9.

“It is not unusual to come back somewhere along the line of deliberations and say ‘we tried, but couldn’t get there,'” Judge Robert Jonker said, according to Detroit News. “At least not on everything.”

TRIAL RESUME FOR 4 MEN ACCUSED OF MICHIGAN GOVERNOR PLOT

Jonker encouraged the jurors to continue deliberations in hopes of reaching a unanimous decision, saying, “Before that’s the final answer, I would like you to go back and make another effort to see if you can come to an agreement on issues you are stuck on as a group.”

Fox, Croft and Harris faced additional charges. The two most serious charges, kidnapping conspiracy and conspiracy to use explosives, both carry potential life sentences.

The trial has lasted over 20 days as the public awaits the final decision on defendants Barry Croft, Adam Fox, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta. Prosecutors say they turned their anger toward government in 2020 into a plot to kidnap Whitmer because of the restrictions she imposed during the early months of the pandemic.

FILE - This combination of photos provided by the Kent County Sheriff and the Delaware Department of Justice shows, top row from left, Brandon Caserta and Barry Croft; and bottom row from left, Adam Dean Fox and Daniel Harris. The four members of anti-government groups are facing trial in March 2022 on federal charges accusing them in a plot to abduct Michigan's Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2020.

FILE – This combination of photos provided by the Kent County Sheriff and the Delaware Department of Justice shows, top row from left, Brandon Caserta and Barry Croft; and bottom row from left, Adam Dean Fox and Daniel Harris. The four members of anti-government groups are facing trial in March 2022 on federal charges accusing them in a plot to abduct Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2020.
(Kent County Sheriff, Delaware Department of Justice via AP File)

Defense lawyers claim informants and undercover agents improperly influenced the men.

Whitmer, a Democrat who is seeking reelection, rarely talks publicly about the case. She has blamed former President Donald Trump for fomenting anger over coronavirus restrictions and refusing to condemn right-wing extremists like those charged in the case. She has said Trump was complicit in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

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Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer visits Ford Bronco off-road track during the Motor Bella 2021 auto show in Pontiac, Michigan, Sept. 21, 2021.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer visits Ford Bronco off-road track during the Motor Bella 2021 auto show in Pontiac, Michigan, Sept. 21, 2021.
(REUTERS/Rebecca Cook)

A man upset over state-ordered coronavirus restrictions was sentenced to just over six years in prison last year after admitting to involvement in the plot – a significant break that reflected his quick decision to cooperate and help agents build cases against others.

Ty Garbin admitted his role in the alleged scheme weeks after his arrest last fall. He is among six men charged in federal court but the only one to plead guilty so far. It was a key victory for prosecutors as they try to prove an astonishing plot against the others.

Garbin apologized to Whitmer, who was not in court, and her family.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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