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Delaware man headed to Michigan to face charges in Whitmer kidnapping plot

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

The Delaware man arrested as part of the alleged plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is being transferred to Michigan after a brief Tuesday hearing in federal court in Wilmington. 

Barry G. Croft Jr., 44, of Bear, Delaware, did not speak at the hearing but was present via video conference.

At the conclusion, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jennifer L. Hall entered an order "committing" Croft to the Western District of Michigan, where he is to face conspiracy to kidnap charges.   

Croft was arrested Friday in connection with the alleged plot to kidnap Whitmer from her vacation home in northern Michigan, according to documents filed in court.  

Barry G. Croft Jr., 44, of Bear, Delaware, was charged this week in connection with the foiled plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Croft waived his detention and identity hearings in Delaware but has requested those hearings in the prosecuting district in Michigan, public defender Connor Wilson told Hall.

Five other men from Michigan — Adam Fox, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta — were also charged by federal agents in the alleged conspiracy. If convicted, Croft and the others face a sentence of up to life in prison.

An FBI agent testified earlier Tuesday in a Grand Rapids hearing that the conspirators discussed possible targets including the governors of Michigan and Virginia because they were upset by lockdown orders issued during the coronavirus pandemic.

Federal documents filed in court allege the conspirators twice conducted surveillance at Whitmer's personal vacation home in northern Michigan and discussed kidnapping her to a "secure location" in Wisconsin to stand "trial" for treason prior to the Nov. 3 election.

Earlier this year, Croft and Adam Fox, who was also charged in the kidnapping plot, were identified by federal authorities as individuals who allegedly agreed to unite with others in their cause to take "violent action" against multiple state governments that they believed are violating the U.S. Constitution.

The pair met with others in Dublin, Ohio, on June 6 and talked about creating a "self-sufficient" society that followed the U.S. Bill of Rights, according to the federal affidavit. 

Croft and Fox allegedly discussed detonating explosive devices to divert police from the area of Whitmer's vacation home. 

As part of training for the operation, Croft brought what he referred to as his "chemistry set," which included components for an an improvised explosive device, according to the FBI.

Croft used a firework to which he added black powder and wrapped in pennies and electrical tape as shrapnel,which was set off in a clearing surrounded by "human silhouette targets" to test its capabilities, the FBI affidavit says.

Later that night, when members of the group drove 80 miles to the summer home of Whitmer in Elk Rapids, Croft purportedly asked Fox whether the group was armed.

“Fox confirmed that they were, and Croft suggested they take the opportunity to conduct an act of violence that night,” the FBI agent wrote. But Croft was talked out of it.

Separate from the federal charges, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel last Thursday charged seven other men linked to the militia group Wolverine Watchmen with terrorism and other felony charges related to the alleged kidnapping plot.

Delaware last year pardoned Croft for charges dating to the mid-1990s, including possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, assault and burglary, according to a copy of the pardon papers. 

Croft was also convicted on charges of conspiracy, receiving stolen property and disorderly conduct, according to the pardon document.

The Delaware Board of Pardons had recommended that Croft receive a pardon after he appeared before the board in December 2018. Gov. John Carney, a Democrat and former congressman, signed Croft's pardon papers on April 4, 2019.

Carney's office noted Friday the charges in question were from 1994-97 and the pardon was not opposed by the Delaware Department of Justice. 

"The charges brought in Michigan are disturbing, and everyone charged in this plot should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Carney spokesman Jonathan Starkey said. 

"This is also another warning sign about the growing threat of violence and radicalization in our politics."

mburke@detroitnews.com