A deputy U.S. attorney on Friday afternoon asked jurors in the Gretchen Whitmer kidnapping conspiracy case to uphold the American path of nonviolent political dissent.
“If you don’t like your elected representatives, you can vote them out. That’s what makes this country great,” prosecutor Nils Kessler said in his summary of the Grand Rapids trial, quoted by The Associated Press.
“What we can’t do is kidnap them or kill them or blow them up. That’s also what makes America great.”
Speaking on the 15th day of the trial, after jurors heard instructions from Judge Robert Jonker, the lead prosecutor urged them to convict the four defendants on a kidnapping conspiracy and other charges. He calls them anti-government extremists “filled with rage” and determined to start a “boogaloo” civil war before the 2020 elections, according to the news agency.
“That’s what tied these defendants together. … They knew what they were doing was illegal and were afraid of getting caught.” …
Ty Garbin, who pleaded guilty and testified against the men, said the goal was to get Whitmer before the election and create enough chaos to prevent Joe Biden from winning the presidency. …
Defense lawyers, meanwhile, went through the government’s case; one said the men had been turned into “terrorists” by rogue agents.
Proceedings begin Monday in cases against Adam Fox, 38, of Potterville, Mich.; Daniel Harris, 24, of Lake Orion; Brandon Caserta, 33, from Guangzhou; and Barry Croft, 46, of Delaware. They risk life in prison if found guilty. Harris testified Thursday, the only defendant to do so.
In addition to conspiracy to kidnap, Fox, Croft and Harris are charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction (an explosive device they planned to make). Croft and Harris are also charged with possession of an unregistered destructive device, and Harris is charged with having an illegal short-barreled shotgun.
Jurors have heard from 34 witnesses since March 8, including two former defendants who confessed in plea agreements with prosecutors.
Chris Gibbons, a Grand Rapids attorney representing Fox, accused the government of “radicalization” on Friday, AP reported.
“Inviting citizens who they think are sensitive to a theater where they are given a complete idea of who they are and what they are, and someone rattles the chains, someone beats the drum and makes them everyone get mad,” Gibbons said.
“It’s unacceptable in America,” he said. “That’s not how it works. They don’t make terrorists so you can arrest them.”
In his instructions, the judge said jurors can consider the defense of entrapment — a claim that FBI agents tricked defendants and persuaded them to commit a crime. According to the Detroit Free Press:
Jonker noted: If an accused is already set to commit the crime, it would not be a trap, even if the federal agent or informant provided an opportunity or facilitated the accused’s task.
What the jury must determine, the judge said, is whether the agent or informant persuaded the defendant who is not already willing to commit a crime to do something illegal. This amounts to a trap.
The judge also told the jury to consider the following: Ask what the evidence shows about the character or reputation of the defendants. Who had the idea ? Did the accused participate in a crime?