Prosecutors in Whitmer kidnapping plot say life sentence fits

Federal prosecutors told a judge Monday that a life sentence was warranted for the leader of a conspiracy to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and said his goal of turning the country upside down in 2020 was a precursor of rampant anti-government extremism.

“When our elected leaders live in fear, our representative government suffers. A plot to kidnap Michigan’s governor and harm him is a threat not only to the incumbent but to democracy itself,” wrote US Assistant Attorney Nils Kessler.

Adam Fox “fanatically embraced the cause and persistently urged his recruits to action,” Kessler said.

The Grand Rapids, Michigan court filing came a week before US District Judge Robert Jonker Fox is scheduled to convict him of conspiracy crimes. He and co-defendant Barry Croft Jr. were convicted in August.

Fox’s attorney had not yet filed a criminal complaint. At trial, Christopher Gibbons portrayed him as hapless and practically homeless, a man with a loud, vile mouth who lived in the basement of a vacuum cleaner shop near Grand Rapids.

Jonker has a lot of flexibility in determining Fox’s punishment, although Kessler noted that his sentencing result is “extraordinary,” greatly reinforced by a conviction of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction in the plan.

“The guidelines provide for life imprisonment because Congress has recognized that kidnapping is an extremely serious offense,” Kessler said. “If the goal of this kidnapping is to terrorize the people and disrupt government behavior, it is so pernicious that only the most severe sanction is sufficient.”

Over 33 pages, the prosecutor highlighted what FBI agents and whistleblowers revealed in court, repeatedly citing Fox’s own violent words, secretly recorded or plucked from text messages and social media.

“The Fox conspiracy was a harbinger of more widespread anti-government militia extremism,” Kessler said.

Fox and others trained with guns in crude “shooting houses” in Wisconsin and Michigan and made trips to Elk Rapids to scout Whitmer’s second home. The strategy, according to evidence, included blowing up a bridge to slow the police response to a kidnapping. The FBI broke up the plan with arrests in October 2020.

The government said Fox’s anger at elected officials was fueled by Whitmer’s COVID-19 restrictions.

“We want a revolutionary war,” he said in a June 2020 video. “We want to get rid of this corrupt, tyrannical … government. We want to get rid of that.”

Croft, a trucker from Bear, Delaware, will be sentenced December 28. Two other men pleaded guilty to kidnapping conspiracy, testifying against Fox and Croft two other men were acquitted last spring.

In October, three members of a paramilitary group called the Wolverine Watchmen stood trial in a state court convicted of supporting Fox.


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Sarah Y. Kim

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