Two men accused of taking part in a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer were found not guilty on Friday. A mistrial was declared for two other defendants after a jury failed to reach a unanimous decision.
Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta were found not guilty of conspiring to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in 2020. Additionally, Harris was acquitted of a charge related to explosives, as well as an additional gun charge. A jury could not reach verdicts for two other men, Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr., leading to a mistrial. Harris and Caserta were freed on Friday while Fox and Croft Jr. will return to jail while the government decides how to proceed.
The federal trial is separate from a state case involving defendants Joseph Morrison, Pete Musico, and Paul Bellar, who are accused of providing material support to those involved in the plot to kidnap Whitmer. Their trial is set to begin in September.
According to a federal court filing made by one of the five defendants involved in the federal case, the government employed at least a dozen undercover FBI agents or informants to infiltrate militia groups involved in the alleged plot to kidnap Governor Whitmer. Attorneys for the defendants have argued that the FBI “induced or persuaded” them to go along with the alleged plan to kidnap the Governor, which originally started out as a plan to “storm the Capitol building” in Lansing, Michigan, according to the DOJ.
During closing arguments a week ago, Fox’s attorney, Christopher Gibbons, said the plan was “utter nonsense,” and urged jurors to be the “firewall” against the government, according to the Associated Press. Harris was the only defendant to testify in his own defense, repeatedly telling jurors “absolutely not” when asked if he had targeted the governor.
“I think what the FBI did is unconscionable,” Caserta’s attorney, Michael Hills, said not long after the verdicts. “And I think the jury just sent them a message loud and clear that these tactics — we’re not going to condone what they’ve done here.”
The case was covered extensively by the mainstream media down the stretch of the 2020 election, who used it to paint Trump supporters as violent extremists.
“Today, Michiganders and Americans—especially our children—are living through the normalization of political violence,” Whitmer’s office wrote in a statement following the not guilty verdicts. “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.”
Whiter called for “accountability and consequences” for those who commit “heinous” crimes. “Without accountability, extremists will be emboldened,” the statement continued.