Advance Notice: Briefs

Closing arguments set Monday in retrial of defendants in Whitmer kidnapping plot

By: - August 20, 2022 2:38 am

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer | Whitmer office photo

Closing arguments are set Monday in a Grand Rapids federal courtroom for two men charged with conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2020.

Defense attorneys for Adam Fox, 39, and Barry Croft Jr., 46, rested their case Friday after nine days of testimony. The pair are being tried for a second time on conspiracy charges after a jury in April couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict in their cases, but acquitted two other men.

While neither defendant took the stand in their own defense, their lawyers questioned investigators in the case as they tried to create reasonable doubt about the legality of the methods they utilized to infiltrate the plot.

FBI agent Hank Impola was confronted by attorney Joshua Blanchard with undercover audio in which he is heard telling an informant, “A saying we have in my office is, ‘Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.‘”

On cross-examination, however, agent Corey Baumgardner testified that Impola’s statement was made two months after the defendants were arrested and was actually referencing how Croft and Fox might try to slant the kidnapping allegations.

As they did during the first trial, the defense has argued that Fox and Croft had no real intention to kidnap Whitmer and had been entrapped by undercover agents and informers.

Prosecutors contend the group was angered by Whitmer’s COVID-19 restrictions early on in the pandemic and then sought to create chaos in the days leading up to the 2020 general election.  

Before sending jurors home for the weekend, U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker instructed them to consider what the evidence indicated about the defendants’ character and reputation.

Jonker said that even if a kidnapping was not carried out, they could find the pair guilty of conspiracy if they believe “there was a mutual understanding” to commit a kidnapping.

However, the judge said if the jury believes agents and informants convinced Fox and Croft to commit a crime that they otherwise weren’t willing to do, entrapment could apply.

“Let these things marinate in your own minds,” he told the jurors.

The accused plotters were arrested in October 2020 after authorities say they discussed raising $4,000 to purchase an explosive that would be used to blow up a bridge near Whitmer’s vacation home in order to slow police responding to the kidnapping.

Evidence presented during both trials indicated Fox twice traveled to northern Michigan to scout out the area around Whitmer’s second home with Croft and an undercover agent coming along on one of the trips.

Also assisting the prosecution was testimony from two other defendants, Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks, who earlier pleaded guilty as part of a deal. Garbin testified that the group’s goal was to cause as much disruption as possible so that President Joe Biden couldn’t defeat former President Donald Trump in 2020.

The FBI arrested the group a month before the election, including raiding Garbin’s home in Livingston County.

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Jon King
Jon King

Jon King is the Senior Reporter for the Michigan Advance and has been a journalist for more than 35 years. He is the Past President of the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors Association and has been recognized for excellence numerous times, most recently in 2022 with the Best Investigative Story by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Cleary University. Jon and his family live in Howell.