‘Committed violent extremist’ in alleged governor kidnap plot remains jailed

Michigan
A booking photo of Barry Croft. (Oct. 9, 2020)

A booking photo of Barry Croft. (Oct. 9, 2020)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — One of the men charged with plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will remain behind bars pending trial, a federal judge decided.

Barry Croft Jr., 45, faces a charge of conspiracy to kidnap the governor. Croft, a single father and truck driver from Delaware, could face up to life in prison if convicted.

In Grand Rapids’ federal courthouse Wednesday afternoon, an FBI agent testified Croft surveilled the governor’s vacation home in northern Michigan, brought improvised explosive devices to field training exercises and attended an Ohio meeting at which alleged plotters discussed plans.  

Federal Prosecutor Nils Kessler told the court that Croft was “probably the most committed violent extremist of the whole group.” 

Kessler also played several audio recordings — made by undercover informants — of Croft discussing the alleged plot.

“We’ve heard him talking about wanting to kill people. I’m sure he has in his head that a life sentence is very likely for him, which gives him a lot of motivation to flee,” Kessler said.

Croft’s defense attorney argued the government’s confidential informants encouraged the alleged plotters.

“The government is funding the (Ohio) meeting and inviting people into this meeting …. the government’s the driving force behind it,” said defense attorney Joshua Blanchard. 

But Magistrate Judge Sally Berens ultimately sided with the government.

“The defense argues that it’s simply a matter of ‘big talk,’” noted Berens, referring to the suspects’ alleged plan. 

“But the (undercover) recordings the government has introduced are chilling … Mr. Croft said things … like ‘I’m gonna hurt people, I’m gonna hurt people so f—ing bad, and I’m going to burn motherf—ing houses down and blow sh-t up,’” Berens told the court.

“He talks about levelling buildings. He talks about burning people’s houses down with them inside it and terrorizing people,” Berens continued.

Berens determined Croft presented a danger to the community as well as a flight risk. 

His criminal history includes 15 arrests and multiple instances of failing to appear in court. 

U.S. Marshals transported Croft to West Michigan this week from federal prison in Philadelphia.

He’s being held in the Newaygo County Jail, which houses federal inmates.  

**Correction: A previous version of this article stated Croft was ordered held without bond. While the judge did say Croft could not be released, the federal courts do not use a bond system, making the original terminology incorrect. The text has been updated.

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