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Two of the four men were acquitted on Friday in a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in 2020, prompted by fury over strict COVID-19 restrictions imposed by Democrats at the start of the pandemic.
The verdicts against Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta were read in federal court in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Jurors said they could not agree on verdicts against Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. Prosecutors described Fox as a ringleader of an anti-government group.
Earlier in the day, jurors said there were several counts on which the deliberative body was deadlocked. The testimony began on March 9.
“It’s not unusual to come back somewhere along the deliberations and say ‘we tried, but we couldn’t get there,'” U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker said, according to Detroit News. “At least not on everything.”
TRIAL SUMMARY FOR 4 MEN CHARGED WITH MICHIGAN GOVERNOR’S PLOT
He encouraged the jurors to continue deliberations in the hope of reaching a unanimous decision, saying: “Before this is the final answer, I would like you to go back and make another effort to see if you can come to an agreement on the issues that you’re stuck on as a group.”
Fox, Croft and Harris faced additional charges. The two most serious counts, conspiracy to kidnap and conspiracy to use explosives, both carry a life sentence.
The trial lasted more than 20 days. Prosecutors said they turned their anger to the government in 2020 in a plot to kidnap Whitmer due to the restrictions she imposed during the early months of the pandemic.
Defense attorneys claimed informants and undercover agents improperly influenced the men.
Federal prosecutors refuted the argument with evidence that the men had discussed Whitmer’s abduction before the FBI sting began and went beyond the discussions. They spotted Whitmer’s summer house and tested for explosives, they said.
According to evidence, a homemade explosive was detonated during training in September 2020, about a month before the men were arrested.
In his April 1 closing argument, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler said Croft wanted to test the explosive as a possible weapon to use against Whitmer’s security team. He quoted him as saying that the pennies would be so hot they could go through your “skin”.
Whitmer, a Democrat seeking reelection, rarely speaks 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 said Trump was complicit in the Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill.
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A man upset by state coronavirus restrictions was sentenced to just over six years in prison last year after admitting his involvement in the plot – a significant break that reflects his quick decision to cooperate and to help officers build cases against others.
Ty Garbin admitted his role in the alleged scheme weeks after his arrest last fall. He is between six men accused in federal court, but the only one to have pleaded guilty so far. It was a key victory for prosecutors as they tried to prove an amazing conspiracy against the others.
Garbin apologized to Whitmer, who was not in court, and his family.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.