Keep bombmaker in Whitmer kidnap plot jailed, feds say

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Freeing a violent extremist accused of serving as the bombmaker for a group that plotted to kidnap and kill Gov. Gretchen Whitmer would be dangerous and unreasonable, federal prosecutors said.

Barry Croft, 45, of Bear, Delaware, should stay in prison while awaiting an unscheduled trial date in a case that has focused national attention on violent extremism in Michigan, prosecutors said in a Sunday court filing.

The FBI said in early October that agents had thwarted a plot involving at least 14 men, including Croft, angered by state restrictions on travel and business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Barry Croft

Croft has cited the pandemic as one reason he should be released, saying he fears contracting the virus while in a Philadelphia prison.

"Croft’s first proposed remedy, the immediate release of a violent extremist, is unsupported and unreasonable," Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler wrote in the Sunday court filing.

All five of Croft's co-defendants charged in federal court are being held without bond. One, Kaleb Franks, 26, of Waterford Township, lost an earlier request for bond. Some of the eight accused plotters facing lesser charges in state court have been released on bond.

Bond decisions for accused Whitmer kidnap plotters draw fire

Prosecutors portray Croft as a ringleader, writing "he was the prime mover behind the group’s construction, testing and detonation of weapons of mass destruction," Kessler wrote. The prosecutor also cited evidence revealed during bond hearings in October.

"Evidence adduced at those hearings established that Croft conspired with the other defendants to kidnap the governor ... brought materials for an improvised explosive device to a training exercise ... participated in the nighttime surveillance of the governor’s home ... stopped to inspect a bridge along the way that he planned to bomb ... and detonated a second test bomb with shrapnel for use in the plot," Kessler wrote.

Defense lawyers have portrayed their clients as tough talkers who were exercising their First Amendment rights who never carried out any kidnapping plot. 

Croft was arrested in New Jersey in October after investigators said they thwarted the kidnap plot, but he has not been brought to federal court in Grand Rapids. 

Croft, who FBI agents say posted a hit list on Facebook targeting Muslims and politicians, including former President Barack Obama, complained about the delay in a court filing.

Prosecutors attributed the delay to unspecified "COVID-related issues at FDC Philadelphia." Federal prison data show 16 inmates and two staff members are being treated after contracting the virus while 284 have recovered since earlier this year.

Nationwide, at least 172 federal inmates and staffers have died of the virus while more than 32,300 have recovered from COVID-19.

Twitter: @RobertSnellnews