GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (FOX 2) - While there was only one outcome, both participants and onlookers came away with very different opinions of the verdict of the trial of four men charged of conspiring to kidnap the Michigan governor.
The defense called the acquittal of two men and mistrial of two others a victory for freedom. But for one attorney who watched the trial unfold over 20 days says it represents a dangerous new precedent.
"I have to wonder how much politics played a role in this and that scares me because when it comes to the law, the law is clear: you can't do this crap," Venn Johnson said. "They weren't set up by anybody. These idiots were doing this all on their own."
But Michael Hills, who represented Brandon Caserta during the trial said all the talk was simply that.
"We have the freedom to say that. If I don't like the governor, and it's rough talk, I can do that in our country and that's what's beautiful about this country," he said outside the court house Friday.
In addition to Caserta, Daniel Harris was also found not guilty.
The jury was unable to come to a conclusion on charges against Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. The government plans to retry the men.
For Johnson, the outcome represents a new phase of political extremism as well as an example of the ways charged topics like the COVID-19-related restrictions imposed during the pandemic may influence judicial outcomes.
"If she (Gretchen Whitmer) was a Republican, I'd be saying the same thing. This is scary to me," said Johnson.
Much of the argument presented by the defense was how the FBI's role in the defendant's planning influenced their own interest in the conspiracy. While arguing entrapment can prove a tedious position since it means at least partially admitting that some accusations are true, it can be effective.
"To me this was a signal. A rogue FBI agent trying to line his own pockets with his own cybersecurity company and then pushing the conspiracy that just never was," said Hills.
It was the final stage in a years-long legal effort by the FBI and Justice Department that ran into several problems as they prepared for trial. Concerns over an informant's reliability as well as the credibility of field agents began to amount last year.