A jury of district judges acquitted two suspects in a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor. Gretchen Whitmer. Two other defendants were also charged but the jury failed to reach a decision. According to reports, it is not known if they will retry them. The New York Times.
Brandon Caserta was acquitted of all charges. Daniel Harris was acquitted. Barry Croft and Adam Fox will both be eligible to retrial.
This is an embarrassing outcome for both the FBI—which had relied on a vast network of informants that were extensively involved in planning and even encouraging the plot—as well as Whitmer herself, who treated the plot with utter seriousness and connected it to former President Donald Trump’s irresponsible rhetoric.
Whitmer wasn’t actually in danger. “Big Dan”, the leader of the plot, called law enforcement and paid $54,000 for six months of surveillance to a loose network militia members upset by Whitmer’s COVID-19 lockdown policy. When the group staked out Whitmer’s house, it was Big Dan leading the effort—with the FBI’s foreknowledge and encouragement.
Jayson Chambers (Big Dan’s FBI agent) was also trying to open a business as security consultant. He had all the motivation to create a major domestic terrorist bust that he could claim credit for. Jayson Chambers, Big Dan’s FBI handler was also trying to start a side business as a security consultant. He thus had every incentive to create a major domestic terrorism bust that he could take credit for foiling. The Times reported:
Witnesses proved that no attack took place, and there was no set date or end time for abduction. Details of the plan were sometimes different from one witness to another. F.B.I. Dan Chappel was an informant who said that the group wanted to kill Whitmer. His handling of Covid-19 had angered the men. Ty Garbin, who earlier pleaded guilty to the case, stated that he believed the men would abandon Ms. Whitmer in a boat on Lake Michigan. Kaleb Franks, another man who pleaded guilty said that he had intended to kill the governor in a shootout.
Joshua Blanchard (a lawyer representing Mr. Croft) stated in concluding arguments that there wasn’t a plan to kidnap Governor Scott and that no deal was reached between the four of them. The government had tried to invent a conspiracy through a network undercover agents and informants. He also said that there wasn’t any plan and the “snitches” needed to present it as if they were moving toward one.
Of course, the FBI has a history of engaging with entrapment. This is when people are incited to plot crimes they don’t intend to commit. These prosecutions often involve Muslims. However, right-wing organizations are also common targets of excessive law enforcement. In spite of FBI attempts to create one, it appears the jury had reasonable and justified doubts about Whitmer’s innocence.