'Architect' of Gov. Whitmer kidnap conspiracy gets longest prison term
According to sources, members of the cell were reportedly angry over the Covid-19 restriction Governor Whitmer had put in place.
A judge commissioned with charging suspects involved in the conspiracy to kidnap Michigan's governor, Gretchen Whitmor, charged Barry Croft Jr. to more than 19 years in prison on Wednesday, the Justice Department reported on Wednesday.
Croft, 47, is a Delaware trucker who was among four militiamen convicted in the plot to kidnap the Governor on October 2020.
Croft was also charged with possessing an unregistered explosive device.
He received the longest term in comparison to his two other peers, Ty Garbin, 27, who received a sentence of 2.5 years and is already freed, Adam Fox, 39, who received a sentence of 16 years, and Kaleb Franks, 28, who received a term of 4 years after pleading guilty.
The DoJ sought to give Fox a life sentence but instead charged him with 16 years in prison a day prior to Croft's sentencing.
Prosecutors initially thought of giving Croft a life sentence due to him being “the idea guy” behind the conspiracy and “a very convincing communicator" in inviting people to join the plot, according to Judge Robert J. Jonker.
"However twisted or irrational it may seem to many of us, it did resonate to the targeted audience," the judge said. "That is as important a method of leadership as being out in the field telling people where to go."
Croft's attorney, Joshua Blanchard, said he would appeal the court's decision. According to him, Croft was not the “ideas guy” and “most of what Mr. Croft said was excluded because the government didn’t want the jury to hear it.”
According to reports, Croft and Adam Fox were charged in August with conspiracy to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer.
"According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Croft and others intended to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer from her vacation cottage near Elk Rapids, Michigan, and use the destructive devices to facilitate their plot by harming and hindering the governor’s security detail and any responding law enforcement officers," the statement by the DoJ read.
"They specifically explored placing a bomb under an interstate overpass near a pedestrian boardwalk. A jury in an earlier trial was unable to reach a verdict," the statement added.
According to sources, the culprits were reportedly angry over the Covid-19 restriction Governor Whitmer had put in place.
They were also against her staunch position against gun ownership.
Read more: DeSantis vs. Trump; a cold war getting 'hotter and hotter' - The Hill
Since the FBI was secretly monitoring the group, their attempt was eventually foiled, and Whitmer was left unharmed.
The bureau carried out a total of 14 arrests.
"We’re talking about a conspiracy to physically kidnap the governor, potentially assassinate her as well. It doesn’t get much more serious than that," Jonker said before announcing Croft's sentence.
"The group had a lot of guns. This group had all kinds of material ready to go to achieve their end."
Assistant Attorney Nils Kessler described Croft as the "spiritual leader" of the group of conspirators, and even compared his role to “some sheikh in ISIS."
“He essentially was putting himself as a role of a prophet ... there are people who believe this sort of rhetoric, and he used it,” Kessler told the judge.
“This man is fully radicalized. He hasn’t changed his viewpoint,” Kessler added. "He’s not admitting the ideas are wrong because he still holds them. This whole thing was Mr. Croft’s idea.”
According to Croft's attorney, Croft did not really lead the group and was rather annoying to his peers because he "just kept talking". Instead, Blanchard said his client "went way down a conspiracy rabbit hole."
“When the pandemic touched off, a lot of people went down a similar rabbit hole and suddenly Mr. Croft was connected with a lot of people who felt the same way he did," Blanchard told the judge.
Whitmer blamed former President Donald Trump over the incident and accused him of giving "comfort to those who spread fear and hatred and division."
Earlier this year, Trump said in August that the kidnapping plan was a "fake deal".
Read more: Trump's taxes to be released by House committee after 3-year tug