As a result of the Whitmer case, some see freedom, others danger

As a result of the Whitmer case, some see freedom, others danger

Outside the Michigan courthouse where a jury did not condemn any of the four men accused of plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a defense attorney said jurors saw the alleged plot for what it was: dirty FBI tactics and “rough talk.”

The men, who were heard on audio during the trial talking about killing Whitmer, blowing up a bridge and other acts of violence, said nothing shocking, attorney Michael Hills said. He noted that one of the defense witnesses he considered calling to testify planned to claim that he “heard worse from pregnant mothers on Capitol Hill.”

“If I don’t like the governor and it’s harsh language, I can do that in our country. That is the beauty of this country. That’s the beauty of it,” Hills said. “So hooray, freedom in America. Still here.

But for others, Friday’s outcome after a week-long trial was a chilling reminder that the political violence that plagues the United States too often goes unpunished. From the attacks on social media and elsewhere that disproportionately affect women legislatorstoward Insurrection of January 6 in the United States Capitol and the plan to kidnap Whitmer, people are increasingly angry and feeling emboldened to act on it, they say.

Whitmer, a Democrat, has blamed former President Donald Trump for stoking anger over COVID-19 restrictions and refusing to condemn right-wing extremists. On Friday, his office said people across the country are experiencing “a normalization” of violence. A Democratic state lawmaker said the threats raised will not be taken seriously “until somebody dies.”

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“The plot to kidnap and kill a governor may seem like an anomaly. But we must be honest about what it really is: the result of violent and divisive rhetoric that is all too common in our country,” Whitmer’s chief of staff JoAnne Huls said in a statement. “There must be accountability and consequences for those who commit heinous crimes. Without accountability, the extremists will be emboldened.”

Whitmer has not publicly commented on the outcome of the case. She was not a witness at the trial and did not attend the trial.

Four men, Adam Fox, Barry Croft Jr., Brandon Caserta and Daniel Harris, were arrested in October 2020. Federal prosecutors said they wanted to kidnap Whitmer because they were angry about pandemic restrictions and saw her as a “tyrant” that needed to be removed.

The charges came at a particularly divisive time, with debate over the pandemic raging and just weeks before the 2020 presidential election between Trump and Joe Biden. Armed protests were taking place at the Capitol in Michigan and elsewhere in the United States, and on the streets of many cities, demonstrations by the police murder of george floyd at times he became violent.

Prosecutors presented evidence at the federal trial in Grand Rapids, Michigan, of undercover agents, an fbi informant Y two men who pleaded guilty to the plot. Jurors also read and listened to secretly recorded conversations, violent social media posts and chat messages.

Defense attorneys argued that the men were caught by the FBI —involved in an alleged plot they never would have been involved in if it weren’t for the government and its informants luring them in. They painted the men as hopefuls who were frequently drugged and easily influenced, or in one case, a former member of the military who wanted to brush up on firearms training.

Before delivering their verdicts, the jury said that after almost five days of deliberations they could not unanimously agree on the 10 counts against the men.

Harris, 24, and Caserta, 33, were found not guilty of conspiracy. Harris was also acquitted of charges related to explosives and a weapon.

The jury could not reach verdicts for Fox, 38, and Croft, 46, meaning the government may retry them.

US Attorney Andrew Birge said after the verdicts that “we have two defendants who are awaiting trial and we will get back to work on that.”

Hills, who defended Caserta, said the result was a message to the government that the FBI’s actions were “inconceivable.” He said the federal government should “let him go” rather than put Croft and Fox on trial a second time.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican, tweeted after the verdict that “The FBI and Department of Justice need a complete and total cleanup. … All the rot must be removed and these agencies must be restored.”

Others were stunned by the jury’s decision, saying it was a dangerous example.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, a Democrat, called for an end to “hatred and division in this country” and said she is “deeply concerned that today’s decision in the Whitmer kidnapping trial gives people more license to choose.” violence and threats.

Michigan Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist called on elected officials, parents, teachers and others to stand up to “these hateful actions and teach our children that there is a better way.”

“Our differences must be resolved at the ballot box, not through violence,” he said. “We need to be honest and clear about the causes of violence by extremists and do everything we can to address the root of it.”

Michigan State Rep. Laurie Pohutsky, a Democrat, noted on Twitter that a man who threatened to kill her in 2020 has been acquitted.

“The next time you ask why we can’t get good people to run for office, consider today’s verdict,” he said, adding: “This won’t be taken seriously until someone dies.”

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

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