Barry Croft Jr., 47, of Delaware, was described by prosecutors in a federal courtroom in Grand Rapids on Wednesday as the “spiritual leader” and “ideas guy” of the plot, but it was ultimately dismissed. involving informants and undercover FBI agents who join forces with the armed, right-wing group Wolverine Watchmen.
Croft and his accomplice, Adam Fox, 39, of Michigan, were convicted by a federal jury of two counts of conspiracy after a second trial in August, with Croft also found guilty of an additional weapons charge. Prosecutors accused the two men of anger over the covid-19 lockdown, which they described as alleged “tyranny” by elected officials, and a violent plot they wanted to see turn into a bloody “revolution.”
The incident underscored the rise of extremist violence, especially from the right, at a time of deep political divisions in the country. Federal prosecutors said the seriousness of the conspiracy made life sentences for the defendants appropriate. Croft’s defense argued that he was less involved than Fox and was not seen as a real leader among the group.
Violent tactics by the far right have been unleashed on the Capitol after last year’s lawsuits at statehouses.
Fox was sentenced to 16 years in prison on Tuesday, and two other defendants have agreed to plead guilty and testify against Croft and Fox in 2021 and early 2022. Two other defendants were acquitted in federal court in April.
Investigators arrested him in October 2020, state and federal authorities said, adding that he had assembled weapons, trained and planned to kidnap Whitmer from his vacation home in northern Michigan and blow up a bridge to defy security and law enforcement. Answer before the 2020 election.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Croft’s defense attorney, Joshua Blanchard, acknowledged the case’s impact on Whitmer, the community and elected officials, but said Croft’s role does not warrant a life sentence. He described his client as an isolated truck driver who lived in an echo chamber and went down a “conspiracy rabbit hole”.
“The government painted a picture of Mr Croft as a radical by the summer of 2020, perhaps rightly so. He said some horrible, horrible things. But I can tell the court that a sober Mr. Croft is going to find these things difficult to listen to,” Blanchard said.
Federal prosecutor Nils Kessler emphasized that Croft had adopted a more “toxic” ideology than his co-convicts, and that he still showed no remorse, with Croft continuing to give interviews from prison. Last night he called the government “illegitimate”.
“He would at least admit that the ideas were wrong, but not because he still held them,” Kessler said.
In explaining why he would not be sentenced to life in prison, U.S. District Judge Robert J. Donker said ultimately no one was hurt and no infrastructure was destroyed.
“Thank God, the end of the conspiracy never materialized. It would never happen because law enforcement would never allow it,” Jonker said, referring to the agents involved.
But the judge also noted that Croft “was in a different tranche” than his co-defendants and had been involved in anti-government activities for a longer period of time.
“I don’t believe what we’ve seen yet is a significant change in Mr. Croft,” Jonker said.
In court Wednesday, Croft declined to speak on the advice of his attorneys.
Although Croft’s sentencing ends the federal prosecution of the six defendants, several other alleged co-conspirators still face state charges. In October, three men were convicted in Jackson County Circuit Court of violating Michigan’s anti-terrorism laws enacted after the September 11, 2001, attacks. Joseph Morrison, 28; Pete Musico, 45; and Paul Bellar, 24, were sentenced to a minimum of 10 years, 12 years and a minimum of seven years for aiding and abetting the scheme.
Five others are awaiting trial on state charges in northern Michigan’s Antrim County, where Whitmer’s vacation home is located.