COVID-19 delays trial in plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Whitmer | Region

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — The trial of four men accused of conspiring to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, which was scheduled to resume Monday, has been postponed until at least Thursday because a key participant was tested positive for COVID-19.

U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker ordered the postponement on Sunday. Undercover FBI agents and informants were due to testify in the coming weeks, as were two co-conspirators who pleaded guilty before trial as prosecutors build their case against four defendants accused of conspiring to kidnap Whitmer.

The trial could last more than a month.

During testimony last week, prosecutors sought to counter defense claims that the four were framed, deceived by the FBI to join a kidnapping plot that would not have occurred to them otherwise. Prosecutors laid the groundwork for their case by calling FBI investigators to explain how they obtained secret recordings and social media posts. They seized some of this key evidence.

On Thursday, jurors heard for the first time a recording of one of the defendants speaking specifically about the kidnapping of the Democratic governor. Barry Croft Jr. could be heard saying there should be “a quick and precise take” from Whitmer.

The jurors heard it and the accused Adam Fox in social media posts and recordings exposing alleged government abuses and say violence was a valid answer. Prosecutors say Croft and Fox were the masterminds of the plot.

Prosecutors said authorities arrested Fox, Croft, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta in October 2020 to thwart the kidnapping and ensure the men could not follow up on offers to buy high explosives.

In 2020, Whitmer was trading taunts with then-President Donald Trump about his administration’s response to COVID-19. His critics have regularly protested at the Michigan Capitol, clogging the streets around the state house and legally carrying semi-automatic rifles into the building.

Whitmer, who is seeking re-election this year, rarely speaks publicly about the case and is not expected to attend the trial. She blamed Trump for stoking mistrust and fomenting anger over coronavirus restrictions and refusing to condemn hate groups and right-wing extremists like those accused in the plot. She said he was also an accomplice in the deadly January 6 Capitol insurrection.

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White reported from Detroit.

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

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Elna M. Lemons