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Man accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says God gave him permission to kill

Robert Snell, The Detroit News on

Published in News & Features

DETROIT — An accused bombmaker identified as a ringleader of a plot to kidnap and harm Gov. Gretchen Whitmer claimed he had permission from God to commit murder and was the national leader of a militia group that rioted at the U.S. Capitol last week, an FBI agent said Wednesday.

The new details emerged as the accused ringleader, Barry Croft, 45, of Bear, Delaware, pleaded not guilty and was denied bond during a hearing in federal court in Grand Rapids. The hearing marked Croft’s first appearance in a Michigan courtroom since being charged alongside five others in October in a case that has focused national attention on violent extremism in Michigan.

Croft is the national leader of the 3 Percenters, a small militia that participated in the Jan. 6 insurgence at the U.S. Capitol, FBI Special Agent Richard Trask said during the hearing, which featured undercover audio and video recorded by FBI informants. At one point Wednesday, Croft was asked to stand and display the 3 Percenters tattoo on his hand.

Prosecutors used those ties while arguing Croft was dangerous, a flight risk and should remain jailed amid warnings from the FBI about potential armed protests by violent extremists at all 50 state capitols ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20. Lansing Mayor Andy Schor has asked Whitmer to activate the National Guard.

Prosecutors say Croft is a violent extremist who served as the bombmaker of a group that plotted to overthrow the government and targeted several other politicians, including President Donald Trump, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster.

“This is probably the most committed violent extremist of the entire group,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler told the magistrate judge. “There is no question this is a person committed to violent extremism and he is the one who brought the bomb.”

 

Croft's lawyer, Joshua Blanchard, objected to the government mentioning the 3 Percenters role in the Capitol riot and said Croft and others accused in the kidnapping plot were simply "airing grievances" and lacked a plan.

"I don't think that's enough," Blanchard told U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally Berens.

The judge, however, cited Croft's criminal record and violent rhetoric captured on secretly recorded FBI recordings in ordering the Delaware man jailed indefinitely.

“Just because one plot was uncovered does not mean there aren’t other aims that Croft could direct his attention and his explosive tradecraft," Berens said.

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