© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) speaks during an event with US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden (not pictured) at the Beech Woods Recreation Center in Southfield, Michigan, U.S. , October 16, 2020. REUTERS / Tom Brenner / F
(Reuters) – A federal grand jury concluded a second day of deliberations on Tuesday in the trial of four men accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer on charges of terrorism in country or be the victim of excessive solicitation and prosecution.
During Friday’s final argument, a government prosecutor described the defendants as “paranoid” and intent on sparking a civil war by kidnapping Whitmer and holding her accountable. on placing restrictions on social and business activities due to COVID-19.
Defense attorneys say their clients were coerced into discussing conspiracies by informants to the FBI and never came up with specific plans themselves.
The case has drawn the attention of two of the right-wing organizations that have emerged in the years since former President Donald Trump’s election in 2016. It also highlights the extent to which the pandemic and its efforts The government’s power to control it has become a thorny issue. in American politics, pushing some people to extremes.
All four defendants – Adam Fox, Brandon Caserta, Barry Croft Jr. and Daniel Harris – both charged with conspiracy to kidnap. Fox, Croft and Harris were also charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction.
If convicted, the men could spend the rest of their lives in prison.
On Monday, the 12-member jury ended its first day of deliberations without reaching a verdict.
At about 3 p.m., jurors asked U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker, “What’s a weapon?” – an explicit reference to weapons of mass destruction.
Jonker replied that a weapon is anything that can be used to “destroy, injure, or kill someone or something, as opposed to something you would use for fun”, the Detroit Free newspaper. Press reported.
Fox allegedly ordered $4,000 worth of explosives from an undercover FBI agent posing as an accomplice, according to the indictment. The document also accused Fox and Harris of paying for explosives.
The two other men initially charged – Ty Garbin and Kalen Franks – made plea agreements and acted as key witnesses to the prosecution during the trial. Garbin is currently serving a six-year sentence, while the Franks await sentencing.
The four men on trial, plus Garbin and Franks, were among 13 people who were arrested in October 2020 and charged with federal or state charges in conspiracy to kidnap. Seven of them are facing charges in state court.
The FBI said it began monitoring the group’s activities after it saw online discussions that included posts about violence that toppled governments in several states. The group’s goal is to end the restrictions on social and business activities imposed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Prosecutors have also accused them of wanting to start a second American civil war, while defense attorneys say their clients are often addicted to drugs and are more likely to talk “crazy” than act specific. body.
According to prosecutors, Harris, Caserta and an undercover informant who testified at the trial were members of the Wolverine Watchmen, a militia group. Croft and Fox are members of “Three Percenters,” a similar far-right organization.
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