Leader of Plot to Kidnap Governor Learns His Fate

Barry Croft Jr. gets more than 19 years
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 28, 2022 11:20 AM CST
Leader of Plot to Kidnap Governor Learns His Fate
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is seen July 20 in Detroit.   (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

A Delaware trucker described as a co-leader of the conspiracy to kidnap Michigan's governor was sentenced to almost 20 years in prison on Wednesday, a day after an accomplice received 16 years behind bars. Prosecutors had sought a life sentence for Barry Croft Jr., 47, who was the fourth and final federal defendant to learn his fate. He was sentenced to 19 years and seven months. Judge Robert J. Jonker described him as "the idea guy" behind the plot and called him "a very convincing communicator" for people who were open to his views, the AP reports. Croft and Adam Fox were convicted in August of conspiracy charges in Grand Rapids. Croft also was found guilty of possessing an unregistered explosive.

They were accused of hatching a stunning plot to abduct Gov. Gretchen Whitmer from her vacation home just before the 2020 presidential election. The conspirators were furious over tough COVID-19 restrictions that Whitmer and officials in other states had put in place during the early months of the pandemic, as well as perceived threats to gun ownership. Assistant US Attorney Nils Kessler called Croft the "spiritual leader" of the group of conspirators, comparing his role to that of "some sheik in ISIS." "He essentially was putting himself as a role of a prophet ... there are people who believe this sort of rhetoric, and he used it," Kessler told the judge.

Croft regularly wore a tricorn hat common during the American Revolution and had tattoos on his arms symbolizing resistance—"Expect Us"—as he traveled to Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan to meet with like-minded extremists. The abduction was meant to be the beginning of a "reign of terror," Kessler said in court documents. Croft's plan called for riots, "torching" government officials in their sleep, and setting off violence across the country. Croft's attorney tried to soften his client's role. In a court filing, Joshua Blanchard said the man from Bear, Delaware, didn't actually have authority over others and often frustrated them because he "just kept talking."

(Read more Gretchen Whitmer stories.)

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