GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The attorney for one of the accused leaders in an alleged plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer argued on Wednesday that marijuana fueled much of the talk — and that an FBI informant supplied the pot.
“This was stoned, crazy talk and not a plan,” said Joshua Blanchard, the attorney for Barry Croft Jr., of Delaware.
Testimony began Wednesday in the trial of Croft and three other men — Adam Fox, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta — in the alleged plot to kidnap the governor.
Defense attorneys argued the FBI and its agents, including informants, entrapped them.
Among the informants, they said, was Stephen Robeson, of Oxford, Wisconsin, who was later accused by the feds of working both sides. He could still face charges.
“Robeson was plying these guys with drugs,” Blanchard said, including during a militia meeting in Dublin, Ohio. “Virtually everyone there was stoned, absolutely bonkers, out-of-their mind stoned.”
The FBI knew Robeson was providing marijuana, knew it wasn’t allowed, but let it go, Blanchard said.
“They brushed that aside, they ignored their snitch was rolling blunts with everyone,” Blanchard said.
Robeson turned off his secret recording device when he was riling up everyone against the government, the attorney said, then turned it on when those he riled up started up with anti-government talk.
Defense attorneys said they planned to call Robeson as a witness, though Robeson has told Target 8 that he did not entrap the men.
Croft’s attorney said another FBI informant, a woman from Tennessee, paid for Croft’s hotel room in Big Rapids for a training exercise in Luther in September 2020.
“As usual, there was a lot of marijuana … then the FBI arranged a field trip to Elk Rapids” to scope out the governor’s cottage, Blanchard said.
Croft, he said, was in a vehicle with two informants and an undercover FBI agent for that mission.
“There was no plan, no agreement, no kidnapping,” Blanchard said.
He said Croft talked about plans involving pyramids, about using Blackhawk helicopters, about barking in the woods around the governor’s cottage to make her think “even the animals had turned against her.”
Blanchard claimed the FBI started targeting his client in 2017 because Croft had written “mean things” about the FBI on Facebook.
“We expect better from our government,” Blanchard said. “It’s not criminal to dislike your government.”
Julia Anne Kelly, the attorney for Harris, acknowledged he “wasn’t perfect in the summer of 2020,” that he said and wrote inappropriate and immature things, but argued he wasn’t part of any conspiracy.
She argued the weekend in Luther, before the trip to conduct reconnaissance on the governor’s cottage in Elk Rapids, was “fully scripted by the government.” There were three informants, two undercover FBI agents, pole cameras already installed at the cottage and Michigan State Police troopers set up on US-131, she said.
“We couldn’t disagree more on our side of the table about what the evidence suggests,” said Christopher Gibbons, the attorney for Fox. “Adam Fox did not commit a crime in this case. He did not agree with another person to kidnap the governor of Michigan. There was no plan, there was no conspiracy.”
“It’s all parlor tricks,” Gibbons said.
Fox, he told the jury, was a “misfit” who lived in the basement of a vacuum cleaner shop in Grand Rapids and had few friends, that he was taken in by “Big Dan,” who identified himself as a militia member but was really an FBI informant.
“Dan is like the backbone of the case,” Gibbons said. “He is the framework upon which everything hangs in this case.”
Before informant Big Dan got involved, Gibbons said, “training was to smoke pot, talk, drink beer then go out back and dump a couple of mags (magazines of ammunition) into a tree trunk from different positions.”
In his opening statement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Roth said the plot started with Croft’s “call to action in April 2020” and that Fox “accepted” that call and began plotting to kidnap Whitmer.
He said Croft was a national figure in the boogaloo movement, which believes a second civil war is coming and “they’re looking forward to it.”
“For Barry Croft, that meant violence. He may look like a middle school math teacher now, but he looked quite a bit different back then,” he said.
Roth said that Croft “asked God for permission to kill, and he claims he got it.”
He said Fox “claimed to be anointed by God to wage war in this country.”
“They were going to break into the governor’s home and kidnap her at gunpoint. They would hog-tie her and take her away. This is not just talk; their actions were louder than and just disturbing as their words,” he said.
Roth argued the FBI did not entrap the four.
“If the government gave the defendants an opportunity to commit a crime, gave them an opportunity, that is not entrapment,” he told the jury. “These defendants were willing and eager if not already preparing to commit this crime long before law enforcement got involved.”
The only testimony on Wednesday came from an FBI agent, who testified about social media posts by Croft and Fox in the spring of 2020. Those posts, including videos posted on Facebook, were played for the jury.
“They took away our livelihood, they took away our everyday lives,” Fox was shown saying in June 2020. “Who’s ready to go take politicians and put them on trial?”
The feds said that proves the suspects were predisposed to commit the kidnapping. If they were predisposed, the feds argued, they were not entrapped.
“It’s boogaloo time in 2020, get ready,” Fox is quoted as saying in a video posted on Facebook.
Testimony continues on Thursday in a trial that is expected to last up to six weeks.
Stay with us for the latest throughout the trial.