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The kidnapping jury hears about the trip to the Whitmers’ home

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP/WOOD) — An FBI agent working undercover told jurors Friday that he accompanied two men on an overnight drive to the Michigan governor’s vacation home and directly linked the couple to a key step in an alleged frame-up kidnapping Gretchen Whitmer in 2020.

Mark Schweers also explained how he secretly recorded Adam Fox expressing his contempt for the Democratic governor during their first meeting two months earlier in the basement of a vacuum store in the Grand Rapids area.

“We want her on a table with flex clamps on while we all pose and have our picture taken like we just did the biggest drug blast in…history,” Fox said of Whitmer, laughing and swearing. “Then you lock her up… even if we have to go with her.”

Fox, 39, who lived at the store, and Barry Croft Jr., 46, a trucker from Bear, Delaware, are on trial for a second time on kidnapping conspiracy charges. A jury in April failed to reach a unanimous verdict while acquitting two other men.

Fox and Croft held anti-government views that peaked in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, when Whitmer, like other governors, issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools and restricted businesses. Prosecutors claim the two men intended to wreak national havoc by kidnapping her ahead of the 2020 election.

Defenders said conversations, text messages and social media posts are sometimes ugly but are still protected by the First Amendment. As for a kidnapping plot, they insist Fox and Croft were simply “big talkers” who were caught by undercover agents and shady informants within the group.

Schweers said he got into Fox’s circle by posing as an ally of Michigan’s upper peninsula. In September 2020, after a day of cannon practice, the agent said about a dozen people, including two whistleblowers, drove to Elk Rapids in three vehicles to check out Whitmer’s second home and a boat launch.

“Each truck was given its own order,” says Schweers.

He repeatedly said “no” when a prosecutor asked if it was the agent who suggested attacking the state capitol, kidnapping Whitmer, or blowing up a bridge in Elk Rapids. The questions were an attempt to counter the defense’s trapping strategy.

In a separate matter, Croft’s attorney, Joshua Blanchard, raised concerns about whether a jury sitting Tuesday will be fair.

In a court filing, Blanchard said he had a source who indicated a jury had hoped to be selected and would ensure a safe verdict. The document was reviewed by The Detroit News before being sealed in the online file.

US District Judge Robert Jonker, fearing grounds for a mistrial, said all subsequent filings would be sealed and attorneys would not be able to speak publicly about the issue. He said Blanchard did not assimilate the available information “accurately and completely.” There were no changes in the jury.

On the third day of testimony, Jonker also expressed frustration at the “ridiculous” pace of the trial and feared “we’ll be here by Thanksgiving” if the attorneys don’t tighten their approach, mostly in reference to the defense.

“I will think hard about time limits at the weekend. … Look at the jury: They can see when they check out — and they check out,” the judge said.

Joshua Blanchard, an attorney for Croft, continued to use the containment defense, according to Friday’s testimony to News 8.

“You did everything right. They apparently created the fake militia. One informant asked the other to create the militia Facebook page for Adam, which was today’s testimony,” Blanchard said.

A special agent at the booth agreed to a question regarding a meeting where 30% of the people there worked as confidential informants for the FBI. Blanchard said on another occasion that this ratio is even higher.

“They took him to see Luther in the car my client was in on the excursion. It was 75% informers. There were three informants and my client,” Blanchard said.

Whitmer has accused then-President Donald Trump of fueling suspicion and anger over coronavirus restrictions and refusing to condemn hate groups and far-right extremists like those accused in the conspiracy.

Trump last week called the kidnapping program a “fake deal.”

https://www.woodtv.com/news/michigan/jury-in-kidnap-plot-case-hears-about-ride-to-whitmer-house/ The kidnapping jury hears about the trip to the Whitmers' home

Dais Johnston

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