GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A key figure in an alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told an undercover FBI agent that he wanted to restrain the “tyrant” on a table then pose for a photo “like we just made the biggest drug bust," according to a secret recording played for jurors Thursday.
The trial of four men resumed in federal court in Grand Rapids, Michigan, after a three-day delay due to someone in the courtroom testing positive for COVID-19.
Agent Mark Schweers told the jury that he was posing as someone with like-minded views from Michigan's Upper Peninsula when he met Adam Fox in the basement of a vacuum shop in suburban Grand Rapids, a hideaway accessed by a trap door.
Fox didn't know that Schweers was wearing a recording device as he talked excitedly about attacking the Michigan Capitol, teaming up with a militia called the Wolverine Watchmen, and restoring a “constitutional republic.”
“We want her flex-cuffed on a table while we all pose and get our pictures taken like we just made the biggest drug bust in ... history,” Fox said of Whitmer, laughing and using profanities.
“You give us that, we’ll be happy," Fox said. “Then you lock her ... up, even if we gotta go with her.”
Fox, Barry Croft Jr., Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta are charged with conspiracy. Prosecutors say they turned their anger toward government in 2020 into a plot to kidnap Whitmer at her vacation home because of restrictions she imposed during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier Thursday, FBI agent Christopher Long testified about how investigators got interested in Croft, a trucker from Bear, Delaware.
Long said Croft wrote on social media in 2019 that he wanted to force police officers out of their homes with fire, then “have a people’s trial and hang them from the nearest tree.”
Defense attorney Joshua Blanchard has told jurors that the FBI pursued Croft because they simply didn’t like him or his associates who had antigovernment opinions. His questioning of Long at times followed that theme.
But the agent offered a different explanation.
“When you have an individual who has a violent-threat style of communications with individuals and you add in he had access to weapons ... those do not fall under First Amendment protected speech,” Long said.
Jurors listening to social media videos and secretly recorded conversations last week heard Fox and Croft talk about taking action against government. Defense lawyers claim informants and undercover agents improperly influenced the men.
Blanchard noted that the FBI had encouraged an informant to keep Croft and various antigovernment allies together after a tense summer 2020 meeting in Peebles, Ohio.
But if the group was possibly breaking up on its own, Blanchard asked, wouldn't that actually prevent violence?
“The concern was that they were going to have a lone wolf attack, and we weren’t going to have access to specific individuals,” Long replied. “The entire group was violent. Mr. Croft was violent, as well.”
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.
Find AP’s full coverage of the Whitmer kidnap plot trial at: https://apnews.com/hub/whitmer-kidnap-plot-trial
White reported from Detroit.