A man accused of leading a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was “antigovernment” and believed officials were out to “line their own pockets,” his longtime companion testified Wednesday before prosecutors rested their case.
Chastity Knight spoke to jurors on the 13th day of trial in federal court in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She was asked about Barry Croft Jr.’s tattoos, including one with three stars — popular among extremists — and his attitude toward government.
“ He was antigovernment, ” Knight of Bear, Delaware, said. “He just thought the government’s not for him. The government doesn’t help the people out. They like to line their own pockets.”
The jury has heard key evidence from undercover FBI agents and an informant who was inside the group for months and made secret recordings. Two men who pleaded guilty provided critical testimony last week, including a desire for national chaos if Whitmer, a Democrat, could be abducted from her vacation home before the 2020 election.
Croft, Adam Fox, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta are charged with a kidnapping conspiracy. Fox, Croft and Harris face additional charges related to explosives.
Knight, 40, cried as she identified one of Croft’s daughters as the person who offered him a snack chip during a weapons training session in Luther, Michigan.
“Honey, I’m making explosives. Can you get away from me, please? ... I love you. Get out of here,” Croft said in recorded remarks.
Defense lawyers asked for a direct acquittal, a standard step in a criminal trial, arguing there wasn't sufficient evidence to give the case to a jury. But U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker quickly swept it aside and especially noted the detailed testimony of two star witnesses who pleaded guilty, Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks.
The defense got off to a rocky start: At least five people said they would assert their right to remain silent if called to the witness chair. They included an informant, Steve Robeson, who switched sides during the investigation and tipped off Croft that the FBI wanted to arrest him, according to the government.
The others who invoked the Fifth Amendment had participated in training as well as discussions about the plot but have not been charged.
The judge pressed lawyers to indicate soon whether Fox, Croft, Harris or Caserta will testify. The attorneys claim the group was engaged in a lot of crazy talk fueled by agents, informants and marijuana but not a conspiracy.
The men were arrested in October 2020 as they moved closer to obtaining an explosive that could blow up a bridge and hold back police from responding to a kidnapping at Whitmer’s second home, according to trial testimony.
Garbin said the men acted willingly and had hoped to strike before the election. He said they wanted to stop Joe Biden from winning the presidency.
The group was angry with COVID-19 restrictions and disgusted with government, recordings and social media posts show.
Whitmer rarely talks publicly about the kidnapping plot, though she referred to “surprises” during her term that seem like “something out of fiction” when she filed for reelection on March 17.
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. Whitmer 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.