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Prosecutor to Jury: 4 in Gov. Whitmer kidnap plot full of ‘rage’

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Defense attorneys, meanwhile, panned the government’s case; one said the men were turned into “terrorists” by rogue agents.

A prosecutor urged jurors Friday to convict four men in a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, saying they were anti-government extremists “filled with rage” and intent on touching off a civil war in the final weeks of the polarizing 2020 general election.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler summed up the evidence on the 15th day of trial, tracing the group’s secretly recorded words as well as testimony from agents, an extraordinary informant and two star witnesses who pleaded guilty.

Kessler started his closing remarks by saying there are boundaries when it comes to scorn for people in power.

“If you don’t like your elected representatives, you can vote them out at the ballot box. That’s what makes this country great,” Kessler told the jury. “What we can’t do is kidnap them, kill them or blow them up. That’s also what makes America great.”

Adam Fox, Barry Croft Jr., Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta are charged with conspiracy to kidnap. Three of them also face weapons-related charges.

The men were arrested in October 2020 amid talk of raising $4,000 for an explosive that could blow up a bridge and stymie police responding to a kidnapping, according to trial evidence. Fox twice traveled to northern Michigan to scout the area; one of those trips included Croft and undercover agents.

Kessler said the group’s motive was to spark the “boogaloo,” a reference to a U.S. civil war, by kidnapping Whitmer.

“That’s what bound these defendants together. ... They were filled with rage,” the prosecutor said. “They were paranoid because they knew what they were doing was illegal and were afraid of getting caught.”

The four men deny any scheme to abduct Whitmer from her vacation home, though they clearly were livid with the government and with restrictions imposed by the governor during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ty Garbin, who pleaded guilty and testified against the men, said the goal was to get Whitmer before the election and create enough chaos to stop Joe Biden from winning the presidency.

Kessler took the jury back through events in summer and fall 2020: a national meeting of militias in Ohio, training in Wisconsin and Michigan, and a September night excursion to see the governor’s property on Birch Lake and inspect the bridge.

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