US: 2 men acquitted in Michigan Governor kidnap plot
Wahington, Apr 09: Two of the four men accused of attempting to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer were acquitted at trial on Friday.
The jury opted to acquit Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta in the alleged 2020 plot.
Jurors also deadlocked on the charges against Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. Prosecutors have said they will retry the case.
Fox, Croft and Harris also face additional charges. Two of the most serious charges, kidnapping conspiracy and conspiracy to use explosives, can carry life sentences.
The verdict was read in federal court in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Three of the four defendants hail from the state, one is from Delaware.
Seven other men allegedly involved in the case are to be tried in state court.
Prosecutors said the group was steeped in anti-government extremism and angry over Whitmer's COVID-19 restrictions.
Why did the jury not reach a verdict?
Prosecutors in the case argued that the men had discussed a plot to kidnap Whitmer prior to the FBI's involvement with undercover agents. The US government argued the men conducted surveillance of Whitmer's summer house and tested explosives.
They alleged the men tested a homemade explosive, using coins and commercial grade fireworks, in September 2020. Jurors requested the bag of coins late on Thursday and were given the evidence item as they deliberated on Friday.
Prosecutors were also aided by two co-defendants, Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks, who agreed to work with prosecutors. Garbin is serving six years for his role whereas Franks is awaiting sentencing.
Defense attorneys were eager to portray their clients as big talkers who were low on action and often high on marijuana, easily entrapped by an aggressive FBI. They also argued federal agents entrapped their clients while informants led them on into agreeing to engage in a conspiracy to kidnap Whitmer.
For its part, the FBI testified it began tracking the men following online discussions that included violent content regarding a plot to overthrow state governments.
Earlier on Friday, the presiding judge, Robert Jonker, conceded jurors were struggling with deliberations. In the US, a jury's decision on whether to acquit or convict must be unanimous.
"I know it's tough. We all know it's tough," he told the jury.
What were the men charged with?
The kidnapping case brought by the government saw 10 charges leveled against the defendants.
All of the men faced charges of kidnapping conspiracy while the remainder of the charges pertained to explosives and firearms.
Of those acquitted, Caserta faced one charge and Harris four. In the cases where the jury was deadlocked, Fox faced two charges and Croft three.
Whitmer has rarely discussed the plot to kidnap her publicly but has said it was like "something out of fiction."
ar/msh (AP, Reuters)