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Jury seated in retrial for two men accused of planning to kidnap Governor Whitmer

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U.S. Prosecutor's Office for the Western District of Michigan | U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Michigan
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Adam Fox, in a photo taken by FBI informant Dan Chappel.

A graphic designer. A nutritionist. A heavy equipment mechanic. A retiree who had to stop watching local news ("My wife says it makes me angry."). A first-year college student who'd planned to spend the rest of the summer visiting his mom in Mexico. A mom who said her own son was murdered, and the case is unresolved. A woman who said she'd almost been murdered herself ("I am against guns, totally against guns.").

These are some of the 12 jurors and six alternates seated today in the retrial for Barry Croft and Adam Fox. Federal prosecutors say they were the ringleaders of a plot in the summer of 2020 to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer at her vacation home in Elk Rapids, and leave her drifting alone in a boat in Lake Michigan.

Croft and Fox's attorneys say there was no plot, just a lot of crazy talk from two guys who smoked a lot of weed. It was the FBI, defense attorneys argue, who pushed the idea of a kidnapping forward, and entrapped Fox and Croft along the way.

A total of 14 men have been charged in the case. Two pleaded guilty in federal court. Two others — Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta — were found not guilty by a jury in April. That jury deadlocked on the charges against Croft and Fox, which led to the retrial that began today at the federal courthouse in Grand Rapids.

Eight other men are still awaiting trial in state courts.

In the federal courtroom in Grand Rapids on Tuesday, nearly every prospective juror called into the box said they'd heard at least something about the high profile case. Some said their opinions about politics, or how the pandemic was handled by the Whitmer administration, would prevent them from being able to hear the case impartially.

"My wife and I were very active in working to repeal mask mandates," said one prospective juror. "In this case, I question my ability to do a fair job."

The juror was dismissed from the case.

In the courtroom, the jurors were only identified by number, not by name. Judge Robert Jonker used the same policy in the first trial, in an effort to protect the jurors' identities in a case that's gotten international attention.

As in the first trial, many of the potential jurors said they owned guns. A few said they own more than 10 guns, including AR-15s.

"They're like LEGOs for adults," said one juror, who ultimately was dismissed by attorneys. "It's very modular, easy to work on, cheap."

"We got twelve hard-working jurors, plus some alternates. And we're going to put 'em to work tomorrow sorting this case out, once and for all hopefully."
Christopher Gibbons, attorney for Adam Fox

Jurors came to the Grand Rapids courtroom from various corners of the federal court district that stretches from Barry County, south of Grand Rapids, up to the northern tip of Emmet County, near the Mackinac Bridge.

In all, more than 30 potential jurors were dismissed on Tuesday for various reasons.

Outside the courtroom, Christopher Gibbons, the attorney for Adam Fox, said he was happy with the jury that was chosen.

"We got twelve hard-working jurors, plus some alternates. And we're going to put 'em to work tomorrow sorting this case out, once and for all hopefully."

Gibbons and the other attorneys in the case will likely make their opening statements in the case Wednesday morning.

Dustin Dwyer is a reporter for a new project at Michigan Radio that will look at improving economic opportunities for low-income children. Previously, he worked as an online journalist for Changing Gears, as a freelance reporter and as Michigan Radio's West Michigan Reporter. Before he joined Michigan Radio, Dustin interned at NPR's Talk of the Nation, wrote freelance stories for The Jackson Citizen-Patriot and completed a Reporting & Writing Fellowship at the Poynter Institute.