Sentence next for ‘driving force’ behind plot to kidnap Michigan governor
A steely rebel who wanted to inspire a revolution by kidnapping Michigan’s governor or an insecure patsy who was cleverly swayed by federal agents and informants?
A judge has been given two very different portrayals of Adam Fox, who faces a possible life sentence Tuesday for conspiring to abduct Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and blow up a bridge to ease an escape in northern Michigan.
Fox and co-defendant Barry Croft Jr. were accused of being at the helm of a wild plot to whip up anti-government extremists just before the 2020 presidential election. Their arrest, as well as the capture of 12 others, was a stunning coda to a tumultuous year of racial strife and political turmoil in the U.S.
Fox and Croft were convicted at a second trial in August, months after a different jury in Grand Rapids, Michigan, couldn’t reach a verdict but acquitted two other men.
Fox and Croft in 2020 met with like-minded provocateurs at a summit in Ohio, trained with weapons in Michigan and Wisconsin and took a ride to “put eyes” on Whitmer’s vacation home with night-vision goggles, according to evidence.
“People need to stop with the misplaced anger and place the anger where it should go, and that’s against our tyrannical … government,” Fox declared that spring, boiling over COVID-19 restrictions and perceived threats to gun ownership.
Whitmer wasn’t physically harmed. The FBI, which was secretly embedded in the group, broke things up by fall.
“They had no real plan for what to do with the governor if they actually seized her. Paradoxically, this made them more dangerous, not less,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler said in a court filing ahead of the hearing.
Croft offered bomb-making skills and ideology while Fox was the “driving force urging their recruits to take up arms, kidnap the governor and kill those who stood in their way,” the prosecutor said.
In 2020, Fox, 39, was living in the basement of a Grand Rapids-area vacuum shop, the site of clandestine meetings with members of a paramilitary group and an undercover FBI agent. His lawyer said he was depressed, anxious and smoking marijuana daily.
Christopher Gibbons said a life sentence would be extreme.
Fox was regularly exposed to “inflammatory rhetoric” by FBI informants, especially Army veteran Dan Chappel, who “manipulated not only Fox’s sense of `patriotism’ but also his need for friendship, acceptance and male approval,” Gibbons said in a court filing.
He said prosecutors had exaggerated Fox’s capabilities, saying he was poor and lacked the capability to obtain a bomb and carry out the plan.
Croft, a trucker from Bear, Delaware, will be sentenced Wednesday.
Two men who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and testified against Fox and Croft received substantial breaks: Ty Garbin already is free after a 2 1/2-year prison term, while Kaleb Franks was given a four-year sentence.
In state court, three men recently were given lengthy sentences for assisting Fox earlier in the summer of 2020. Five more are awaiting trial in Antrim County, where Whitmer’s vacation home is located.
When the plot was extinguished, Whitmer, a Democrat, blamed then-President Donald Trump, saying he had given “comfort to those who spread fear and hatred and division.” In August, 19 months after leaving office, Trump said the kidnapping plan was a “fake deal.”
Ed White in Detroit contributed to this story. Joey Cappelletti is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
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