Jury spurns DOJ on Michigan FBI sting op that may have impacted voter behavior

by WorldTribune Staff, April 10, 2022

The Department of Justice failed to return any guilty verdicts against four defendants who defense attorneys successfully argued were entrapped in an FBI sting operation regarding an alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Democrat Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

In a huge defeat for the DOJ, a jury in Grand Rapids on Friday acquitted two men accused of conspiring to kidnap Whitmer and deadlocked on a verdict for two other defendants.

Top: Adam Fox, left, and Barry Croft. Bottom, Daniel Harris, left, and Brandon Caserta. / Kent County Jail and Delaware Department of Justice

Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta of Michigan were found not guilty of conspiring “to unlawfully seize, confine, kidnap, abduct and carry away, and hold for ransom and reward, or otherwise, the Governor of the State of Michigan.” Jurors were unable to reach a unanimous decision for Adam Fox, the alleged ringleader, and Barry Croft, Jr., resulting in a mistrial.

The alleged kidnap plot, which was made public in October 2020, was seen by many analysts as damaging to President Donald Trump’s bid for re-election, particularly in the crucial swing state of Michigan.

During a dramatic speech on October 8, 2020, Whitmer blamed Trump for “stoking distrust, fomenting anger, and giving comfort to those who spread fear and hatred” and for refusing to condemn “hate groups like these two Michigan militia groups.” Joe Biden praised the FBI’s work in the case and accused Trump of sending “dog whistles” to white supremacist militias, later telling reporters it was “despicable” and “beneath the office of the presidency” that Trump allegedly encouraged the would-be kidnappers.

“At least a dozen FBI confidential human sources and undercover agents working out of numerous FBI field offices were deeply embedded in the plot,” Julie Kelly noted in an April 8 report for American Greatness. “To prove entrapment, the defense had to convince the jury that the government induced the criminal behavior and the defendants lacked predisposition to carry out the kidnapping conspiracy on their own.”

Jurors heard 13 days of testimony followed by more than four days of deliberations in what Team Biden considered one of its biggest domestic terrorism investigations.

“When I look at what happened in this case, I am ashamed of the behavior of the leading law enforcement agency in the United States,” Joshua Blanchard, Croft’s public defender, said during his closing argument. Christopher Gibbons, Fox’s public defender, called the government’s conduct “unacceptable in America. That’s not how it works. They don’t make terrorists so we can arrest them.”

Harris was also found not guilty on charges of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction for allegedly attempting to build an explosive device to use in the abduction scheme.

Harris and Caserta, who have been incarcerated since their arrests in October 2020, were released from custody. Fox and Croft will remain in prison as the government decides its next move.

Dan Chappel, the lead FBI informant and government’s star witness in the case, testified that he brought the group of alleged “militia” members together after he was hired by the FBI in March 2020. Chappel created encrypted chat groups and organized excursions for field training and surveillance of Whitmer’s cottage. (He, along with other FBI informants, posed as leaders of two “militia” groups, at least one of which was created by the FBI.)

“For his work over a six-month period, Chappel, a truck driver for a U.S. Postal Service subcontractor, was compensated at least $60,000 by the FBI in cash and gifts such as a new laptop, tires, and a smart watch,” Kelly noted.

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