By JOEY CAPPELLETTI and ED WHITE
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Jury selection started Tuesday in the second trial of two men charged with conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2020.
Prosecutors are putting Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. on trial again after a jury in April couldn’t reach a verdict. Two co-defendants were acquitted and two more pleaded guilty earlier.
Dozens of prospective jurors from all over western Michigan reported to the federal courthouse in Grand Rapids.
The plot to kidnap the Democratic governor followed training in Wisconsin and Michigan and two trips to scout her second home in northern Michigan, according to evidence in the first trial.
Fox lived in the Grand Rapids area and Croft is from Bear, Delaware. They regularly communicated with other extremists who were disgusted with public officials over COVID-19 restrictions early in the pandemic, evidence showed.
The jury will hear secretly recorded conversations and see text messages and social media posts favoring violence. Defense attorneys, however, will hammer away at the credibility of undercover FBI agents and informants who fooled the group into thinking they were allies.
Lawyers for Fox and Croft will argue they were shielded by the First Amendment and entrapped by the government every step of the way.
“Utter nonsense,” Fox’s attorney, Christopher Gibbons, said of a kidnapping plan.
Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta were found not guilty at the first trial. Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks earlier pleaded guilty and will testify again against Fox and Croft.
The “jury really needs to understand its decision needs to be based on the evidence in this case, not what happened in some other case,” U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker told lawyers at a final pretrial hearing.