WASHINGTON - A right-wing militia member convicted in the plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer was sentenced to over 19 years in prison in a US District Court a day after another ringleader had been sentenced to 16 years, prosecutors said.
The two sentences were the biggest handed so far in the foiled plot but fell short of the life sentences sought by prosecutors.
Barry Croft Jr, 47, a member of the far-right Three Percenters militia group, was convicted in August by a federal court jury in Grand Rapids, Michigan, of plotting to abduct the Democratic governor.
Adam Fox, 39, who was also a member of the Three Percenters and was convicted of the same charges at the same trial, was sentenced to 16 years in prison on Tuesday.
Both of them were also imposed with five years of supervised release beyond that sentence.
Croft and Fox were among 13 men arrested in October 2020 in the kidnapping conspiracy. Prosecutors had accused the two of conspiring to trigger “a second American Revolution” by kidnapping Ms Whitmer.
Croft, who appeared in front of US District Court Judge Robert Jonker for sentencing on Wednesday, had no visible reaction to the sentence, The Detroit News reported.
Fox and Croft had plotted to break into Ms Whitmer’s vacation home, kidnap her at gunpoint, and take her to stand “trial” on bogus treason charges and face execution, prosecutors said.
The pair were also found guilty of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction - an explosive device that prosecutors say was intended to hinder law enforcement’s response to the planned kidnapping. Croft was found guilty of an additional charge of possession of an explosive device.
Prosecutors said the plot, precipitated by the opposition of right-wing militia groups to public health measures Ms Whitmer imposed during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, was aimed at pushing the country into armed conflict as a contentious presidential race approached in November 2020.
The weapon of mass destruction involved was a bomb that prosecutors said the conspirators planned to detonate to hinder law enforcement’s response to the abduction.
The attorneys of Fox and Croft had said prosecutors overstated their role. They added that Fox and Croft never used explosives and the group would never have been able to actually kidnap the governor.
Ms Whitmer, co-chairman of Joe Biden’s presidential election campaign that year, had clashed publicly with then-president Donald Trump over her Covid-19 policies.
She accused Trump of fomenting political extremism by repeatedly directing heated rhetoric on the issue, including a campaign rally in Michigan where his criticism of Ms Whitmer drew chants of “Lock her up” from the crowd.
Among the other 11 men arrested in October 2020 in the kidnapping conspiracy, two were put on trial with Fox and Croft in federal court and were found not guilty in April 2022. The same jury failed to reach a verdict for Fox and Croft, resulting in a mistrial for them.
Two other men who pleaded guilty to kidnapping conspiracy charges testified for the prosecution at the first federal trial and during the retrial of Fox and Croft about four months later.
The two cooperating witnesses, Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks, were sentenced to two and a half years and four years in prison, respectively.
Three other men tried together in state court and convicted in October 2022 of playing supporting roles in the plot as members of the Wolverine Watchmen militia were sentenced recently to minimum sentences of 10, 12 and seven years in prison, respectively. REUTERS