Whitmer kidnapping trial: two suspects not guilty, jury deadlocked on other two

A federal jury in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has found two suspects in the plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer not guilty and is deadlocked on two others.

The jury reached the verdict around 2 p.m. on Friday for Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta of not guilty of all charges. Both been had been charged with kidnapping conspiracy while Harris was also charged with possession of a semiautomatic assault rifle with a barrel less than 16 inches long that wasn't registered to him.

The jury found both Harris and Caserta not guilty on all charges but could not return a verdict for Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr.

All four men were on trial in federal court for kidnapping conspiracy but three men were facing additional charges.

The jury told the judge on Friday around 10:45 a.m. that they were deadlocked on some but not all charges. The judge told the jury to keep working on a resolution on all charges.

This is the fifth day of deliberations in the trial of Adam Fox, Barry Croft Jr., Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta. They were are charged with a kidnapping conspiracy while three of them also face additional charges, including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, namely an explosive.

The jury requested and on Friday were given a bag of pennies that was offered as evidence of an explosive earlier in the trial. Investigators say pennies taped to a commercial-grade firework were intended to act like shrapnel during an attack on the Democratic governor's security team. 

The jury is considering 10 charges in the case against Caserta, Fox, Croft, and Harris. The men all face the main charge of a kidnapping conspiracy; three face other counts related to explosives and a firearm. Croft is from Bear, Delaware, while the others are from Michigan.

Prosecutors said the conspiracy against Whitmer was fueled by anti-government extremism and anger over her COVID-19 restrictions. The men trained with a crudely built "shoot house" to replicate her vacation home in September 2020, according to testimony.

Fox and Croft, traveled to Elk Rapids, Michigan, that same weekend to see the location of the governor’s lakeside property and a nearby bridge, evidence showed. Harris and Caserta have been described as "soldiers" in the scheme.

More coverage of the Whitmer kidnapping plot can be found here

Another man, Ty Garbin, who pleaded guilty, said the goal was to get Whitmer before the fall election and create enough chaos to create a civil war and stop Joe Biden from winning the presidency.

Defense lawyers attacked the government’s investigation and the use of a crucial informant, Dan Chappel. They claimed Chappel was the real leader, taking direction from the FBI and keeping the group on edge while recording them for months.

Croft is from Bear, Delaware, while the others are from Michigan.

Whitmer, a Democrat, rarely talks publicly about the plot, though she referred to "surprises" during her term that seemed 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.

Information from the Associatd Press was used in this report.