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Feds say life in prison 'sufficient' for Whitmer kidnap plotter

Robert Snell, The Detroit News on

Published in News & Features

DETROIT — A life prison sentence for Adam Fox, a convicted ringleader of a plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, is sufficient for trying to "light the fire of a second revolution," federal prosecutors said late Monday.

The maximum penalty could help deter terrorism and widespread, anti-government, militia extremism that has flared in the two years since Fox and a group plotted to kidnap Whitmer, angered by the governor's pandemic restrictions, prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

The memo was filed one week before the 39-year-old Potterville resident is scheduled to be sentenced in federal court in Grand Rapids for heading a plot that represented the largest domestic terrorism case in a generation that has shed light on political extremism in Michigan. So far, seven people have been convicted on state or federal charges related to the plot while an eighth individual, FBI informant Stephen Robeson, was convicted of a federal gun crime.

Delaware truck driver Barry Croft, the other convicted ringleader, is set to be sentenced Dec. 28.

"When the aim of that kidnapping is to terrorize the people and affect the conduct of government, it is so pernicious that only the most serious sanction is sufficient," Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler wrote. "The sentence imposed by this court should reflect the incredibly dangerous threat posed by Adam Fox and Barry Croft’s attempt to light the fire of a second revolution."

Fox's lawyer, Christopher Gibbons, is expected to file a separate sentencing memo.

Fox and Croft, 47, are scheduled to be sentenced four months after jurors convicted them of kidnapping conspiracy and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction. Croft also was convicted of possessing an unregistered destructive device, a 10-year felony.

The verdicts gave the U.S. Justice Department a landmark victory prosecuting extremism and domestic terrorism amid an increase in threats nationwide.


"Public officials should never have to worry for their safety, or the security of their families, because of the hard decisions their jobs require," the prosecutor wrote. "If our elected leaders must live in fear, our representative government suffers. A plan to kidnap and harm the governor of Michigan is not only a threat to the officeholder but to democracy itself."

The convictions followed months of criticism from defense lawyers about FBI agent misconduct and claims that a team of FBI agents and informants orchestrated the conspiracy. The government team was accused of entrapping Fox, Croft and others who were portrayed as a ragtag band of social outcasts who harbored antigovernment views.

Two accused kidnap plotters, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta, were acquitted during a first trial earlier this year.

The defendants were arrested in early October 2020 and accused of hatching the plot due to distrust of the government and anger over restrictions imposed during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the court filing Monday, prosecutors cited former President Gerald Ford's inaugural speech, a portion of which is etched on the facade of federal court in downtown Grand Rapids. Ford said: “Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men.”

"This court’s sentence should affirm that message by demonstrating the rule of law will defend itself against political violence and anti-government extremism," Kessler wrote.


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