EXPLAINER: 2 men in Gov. Whitmer plot could be tried again

Apr 11, 2022, 3:22 PM | Updated: 3:35 pm

DETROIT (AP) — A jury’s inability to reach a unanimous verdict for two men charged in a conspiracy to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer means the federal government can take them to trial again.

The jury last week acquitted Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta, whom prosecutors described as “soldiers” in the foiled plot, but deadlocked on the alleged leaders, Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. It was an extraordinary setback for the government, which claimed the men wanted to trigger a civil war before the 2020 election.


A hung jury is unable to unanimously agree on someone’s guilt or innocence. It could be just one person on the 12-member panel who disagrees with the others.

Prosecutors can put someone on trial again or drop the case. U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge told reporters Friday that Fox and Croft are “awaiting trial and we’ll get back to work on that.” They remain in jail.

Mark Chutkow, who until recently led the criminal division of the U.S. attorney’s office in Detroit, said he would be surprised if prosecutors fold, citing the significance of the allegations.

“The government has two cooperating defendants who pled guilty, who said they were part of the crime. That’s pretty compelling evidence,” Chutkow said, referring to Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks, who testified for prosecutors.


Only the jury knows. U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker barred lawyers from contacting jurors for any post-trial intelligence, but jurors can reach out to them on their own.

Chutkow said it could help prosecutors and defense attorneys as they prepare for a second trial.

“As a litigant, sometimes you get in the fog of war,” he said. “You’ve spent so much time with your case, you’re not objective as to what it looked like.”

Fox, who was living in the Grand Rapids area, and Croft, from Bear, Delaware, didn’t testify. Their defense came through the cross-examination of the government’s witnesses.

Fox and Croft might have been angry with Whitmer over COVID-19 restrictions, but there was no real plan to kidnap the Democratic governor, their lawyers insisted. They say undercover FBI agents and informants inside the group fueled wild talk.

Detroit-area defense lawyer Michael Rataj said the challenge for prosecutors in Grand Rapids will be picking a jury from western and northern Michigan.

“It’s Trump country and they don’t like Whitmer. Prosecutors have an uphill battle,” Rataj said.


Prosecutors sharpened their focus after a federal jury couldn’t agree on 23 of 24 charges at former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s 2010 corruption trial. Jurors said just one person was a holdout.

At Blagojevich’s second trial, prosecutors skipped past his expensive taste for tailored suits and furs for his wife. He was convicted of multiple crimes, including an effort to sell an appointment to the U.S. Senate.

But prosecutors decided against retrying New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez. Many jurors at his 2017 trial favored acquittal. A judge subsequently threw out key bribery charges.

“Sometimes, there is bluster and chest thumping” by prosecutors about a retrial after a deadlocked jury, said Alan Tuerkheimer, a Chicago-based jury consultant. “But when the dust settles and they think more clearly, they can change their minds.”

Learning how jurors voted can be crucial. A jury that was one or two votes away from acquittal is a sign of a weak case, Tuerkheimer said, and can dissuade prosecutors from trying again.


Eight other men face state charges in either Jackson or Antrim counties. They’re accused of assisting the others in the Whitmer plot, among other crimes, and have pleaded not guilty.

Whitmer’s vacation home is in Antrim. Fox and Croft, accompanied by undercover operatives, took a night ride to check the location and look at a bridge that could be blown up during a kidnapping, according to evidence in the federal case.

The state cases have moved slowly since fall 2020; five men charged in Antrim still haven’t had a key hearing at which a judge decides whether there’s enough evidence to go to trial.

Defense attorney Kareem Johnson, who is representing Pete Musico, a founding member of the Wolverine Watchmen militia, compared the two acquittals in federal court to a thrilling basketball game.

“It’s like when a teammate hits a 3-pointer. It motivates you to get back on defense and get a stop,” Johnson said Monday.


Find AP’s full coverage of the Whitmer kidnap plot trial at: https://apnews.com/hub/whitmer-kidnap-plot-trial


Tarm reported from Chicago.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


A anti-abortion supporter stands outside the House chamber, Wednesday, April 17, 2024, at the Capit...

Associated Press

Democrats clear path to bring proposed repeal of Arizona’s near-total abortion ban to a vote

Democrats in the Arizona Senate cleared a path to bring a proposed repeal of the state’s near-total ban on abortions to a vote.

15 hours ago

Most Americans are sleepy new Gallup poll finds...

Associated Press

Most Americans say they don’t get enough sleep, according to new Gallup poll

A new Gallup poll found that most Americans are sleepy — or, at least, they say they are. Multiple factors play into this.

3 days ago

Near-total abortion ban in Arizona dates back to Civil War era...

Associated Press

Near-total abortion ban dates back to 1864, during the Civil War, before Arizona was a state

The near-total abortion ban resurrected last week by the Arizona Supreme Court dates to 1864, when settlers were encroaching on tribal lands.

3 days ago

Tracy Toulou...

Associated Press

How to tackle crime in Indian Country? Empower tribal justice, ex-Justice Department official says

A recently retired director of the Justice Dept. says the federal government hasn't given tribal justice systems equal recognition.

4 days ago

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson...

Associated Press

House Speaker Mike Johnson says he will push for aid to Israel and Ukraine this week

House Speaker Mike Johnson said Sunday he will try to advance wartime aid for Israel this week, along with funding for Ukraine.

4 days ago

President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign rally Saturday, March 9, 2024, at Pullman Yards in Atlanta...

Associated Press

US shoots down ‘nearly all’ Iran-launched attack drones as Biden vows support for Israel’s defense

Joe Biden cut short a weekend stay at his beach house to meet with his national security team as Iran launched an attack against Israel.

5 days ago

Sponsored Articles



Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

EXPLAINER: 2 men in Gov. Whitmer plot could be tried again