GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Opening statements and first testimony were given in the trial of the four men charged with plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
New information was revealed, including what prosecutors say the four men planned to do right after capturing Whitmer. Federal prosecutors called Wolverine Watchmen member Adam Fox a key leader of the group of men charged with plotting a violent kidnapping of Whitmer.
Fox and others were angry over how Whitmer handled the coronavirus pandemic with mandates and closures. The jury heard from Fox’s attorney, who called Fox a pot-smoking misfit who was basically homeless and broke. Fox’s attorney insists that Fox did not commit a crime.
During the trial’s opening statements, prosecutors revealed new details saying Fox, Barry Croft, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta sent messages to each other about alleged plans to violently storm Whitmer’s summer home, shoot and kill her security team and shoot any police officers they encounter.
“It is going to be a nightmare. It is going to be a [expletive] shootout,” a message from the men read.
“What you have is that defendants agreed, planned, trained and were ready to break into a woman’s home as she slept with her family in the middle of the night and with violence and at gunpoint they would tie her up and take her from that home,” U.S. Attorney Jonathan Roth said. “And to accomplish that they would shoot, blow up and kill anybody who got in their way.”
The first witness in the trial, FBI agent Todd Ronick, said the FBI was tipped off that the men were talking about planning the kidnapping. The FBI then started gathering information from confidential informants who infiltrated the group. Defense attorneys pointed out that some of the informants have criminal records.
Prosecutors used the defendants own voices as key evidence during the first day of testimony. Prosecutors played recordings of Fox. In the recordings he called Whitmer a tyrant and and said he wanted to start a second civil war.
“I am ready to give maximum effort. I will fire the first shot. The only way -- brute force, violence is the only way to get our rights back,” Fox said in the recording. “We have the numbers, we have the arms, we have the strategy to take our country back.”
Prosecutors called defendant Barry Croft a dangerous anti-government extremist who urged members of the Wolverine Watchmen to use violence against, what he saw, as an overreaching state government.
“We are ready to go [expletive] war. I don’t like violence, but when it is at our door, it is that. I can’t wait to eat these [expletive] like animal crackers. They do not know the wrath they provoke,” Croft said in a recording. “We need this to topple these tyrants.”
Some of the recordings were voicemails, some were sent over Facebook. Comments were recorded by confidential informants about attacking government officials.
Defense attorney’s argued that the men on trial were all talk.