Accused Whitmer kidnapper rips judge, faults FBI for using undercover informants

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Barry Croft, the accused bombmaker for a group charged with plotting to kidnap and kill Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, criticized the federal judge handling his case on the eve of a key court hearing that will decide which evidence will be shown to jurors.

Croft faulted the fairness of U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker and called for the impeachment of prejudiced judges during a wide-ranging phone call Friday from the Newaygo County Jail to "The Free Men Report," a YouTube show by self-described "pro-liberty activists."

Barry Croft of Delaware holds a tactical shotgun in a photo used during his Jan. 13, 2021 bond hearing for his alleged involvement in the attempted kidnapping of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

During the wide-ranging interview, Croft, 46, of Bear, Delaware, denied conspiring with five others to kidnap Whitmer. He pinned the blame on as many as 12 informants and undercover agents, and claimed he was entrapped and betrayed by the government.

"Nobody really conspired to do this thing they're accusing us of," Croft told hosts Thomas Leager and Jeremy Deeter. “Judge Jonker hasn’t been very fair to us, you know, to date. He’s denied … every one of our motions, and I don’t know how in the interest of a fair trial you can deny everything when you’re able to see the motions the defense has filed.

"It’s really a messy ordeal. It’s really sloppy, and I know that me and the guys here are really worried that we’re going to get a fair trial."

Croft and four others accused in the kidnapping plot are scheduled to appear at 10 a.m. Tuesday in federal court in Grand Rapids for a hearing to decide whether jurors will be shown certain pieces of evidence during trial starting March 8.

A sixth man, Ty Garbin of Hartland Township, pleaded guilty, is serving six years in federal prison and is expected to be the government's star witness.

The group is facing charges that could send them to prison for life in a case tthat has focused attention on violent extremism in Michigan. Defense lawyers contend there was no conspiracy and that the case was driven by informants and FBI agents who entrapped the men while committing other misconduct.

"My lawyer seems to think that the case isn't going to be dismissed by entrapment as a matter of law but the evidence in the case unequivocally equates to the government's preponderance of the entire criminal enterprise," Croft said during the interview.

"It was more the informants who conspired amongst each other to set this up," Croft added.

Croft is a truck driver and, according to the government, the national leader of the Three Percenters, a far-right, anti-government militia group. He is portrayed as a ringleader of the alleged kidnap plot.

Croft also threatened to hang former President Donald Trump and posted a hit list on Facebook targeting other elected leaders, including former President Barack Obama, according to an unsealed search warrant affidavit obtained by The Detroit News.

Barry Croft posted this image on his Facebook page, according to the FBI.

FBI agents seized more than 70 firearms and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition from those charged in the Whitmer case along with key bomb components in two states.

Weapons and explosives were found by agents probing the Whitmer plot in a remote training camp deep in the forests of Northern Michigan and from Croft.

On Oct. 8, 2020, agents in Delaware seized a .10-mm Glock pistol from Croft's truck and took a 12-gauge shotgun, two swords, a hatchet and a knife. They also seized a brand of "Dr. Atomic's Exploding Targets," boxes of rifle primers, propane canisters, a box of 6,000 ball bearings and containers of smokeless powder.

This video demonstrates detonation of exploding targets that carry the same brand name as those seized from Barry Croft. (Video: YouTube)

"He was the prime mover behind the group’s construction, testing and detonation of weapons of mass destruction," Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler wrote in an earlier court filing. 

Croft and others were simply airing grievances and lacked a plot, said his lawyer, Joshua Blanchard. Other defense lawyers have portrayed their clients as tough talkers who were exercising their First Amendment rights who never carried out any kidnapping plot. They also suggested federal agents and informants entrapped their clients.

During the interview Friday, Croft reflected on a sense of betrayal he felt about the government and use of informants.

Barry Croft

“It’s a really sad situation that citizens should have to contemplate whether their neighbors and people in their community are actually undercover agents,” Croft said.

“This is all designed very specifically to destroy our trust in one another,” Croft added. “It’s to divide us and separate us and it’s really disgusting that the government that’s supposed to provide for our public safety and welfare is actually making it a society of hatred and distrust. It’s really disgusting.”

During the interview, Croft offered his view on the judiciary.

“The good behavior for a judge is that they protect the institution of justice, OK?” Croft said. “That means fairness. That means, you know, virtues, equity. So if judges are gonna refuse to protect the institution of justice, it is well within the public’s grasp to impeach a judge based on negative treatment; prejudice toward defendants.”

Twitter: @robertsnellnews