Prosecutor drops out of Gov. Whitmer kidnapping plot case
Grand Rapids — A federal prosecutor withdrew Tuesday from the case of a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, days after two men were acquitted and the jury couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict for two more on what had been touted as the largest domestic terrorism trial in recent U.S. history.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Roth notified the judge in a brief court filing. He’s not required to give a reason.
“We don’t have any comment on our staffing of cases in this office,” said Breane Warner, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Grand Rapids.
Roth was one of two prosecutors at the high-profile trial of Adam Fox, Barry Croft Jr., Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta. He gave the opening statement, saying the men wanted to kidnap Whitmer and create a “war zone here in Michigan,” and aggressively cross-examined Harris, the only defendant to testify.
Harris and Caserta were acquitted on April 8, while the jury deadlocked on Fox and Croft. The government signaled that a second trial for Fox and Croft was likely, though no formal notice has been filed. The four men faced kidnapping conspiracy charges, punishable by up to life in prison. Three faced multiple charges, including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction.
The acquittals and deadlocked jury on two other men were a blow to the case that had been dogged by controversy and scandal. The defense had raised questions about the FBI’s conduct and use of informants, including the indictment of rogue FBI informant Stephen Robeson on a gun crime. The defense alleged that FBI agents and informants had orchestrated the conspiracy and entrapped the men.
Caserta’s lawyer called it “the conspiracy that just never was.”
“Never was, never was going to be," his lawyer, Michael Hills, told reporters. "Our governor was never in any danger. I think the jury, even though they didn’t get all of it,” Hills said, “they smelled enough of it.”