A man convicted of playing a key role in the plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was sentenced to 1912 years in prison on Wednesday, which was more than a co-defendant received.
A 47-year-old prosecutor named Barry Croft Jr., who resembles Omar Abdel-Rahman, the so-called Blind Sheikh who masterminded the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Croft and co-defendant Adam Fox, 39, were convicted in August of conspiring to commit kidnapping and using a weapon of mass destruction to attack Whitmer, who drew the ire of far-right groups for her efforts to combat Covid in 2020.
U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker sentenced Fox to 16 years in prison on Tuesday, setting the stage in a Grand Rapids courtroom for Croft’s fate and sentence of 235 months.
While Jonker did not hand down the life sentence sought by prosecutors, he did agree with the government that Croft fueled the plot with dangerous rhetoric.
Croft was dubbed the “idea guy” by Jonker, who encouraged co-conspirators with “wrong” and “twisted” ideology.
“I do believe Mr. Croft is more seriously culpable… more so than Mr. Fox,” Jonker said. “I believe he was the one who gave Mr. Fox something to hold onto.”
Croft, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler, should be detained for an extended period of time to protect the public.
“This man has been thoroughly radicalised,” said Kessler. “He hasn’t changed his mind.”
Croft, according to Kessler, was every bit as dangerous as a foreign terrorist intent on causing harm to Americans.
“He’s the spiritual leader of this group, of this movement, just like some sheikh in ISIS or Al Qaeda,” Kessler explained. “And they don’t have to be tactically sound or the best gunner on the battlefield — he was the ideas guy.”
Defense attorney Josh Blanchard urged Jonker to consider his client’s long history of mental illness and drug addiction. Blanchard appeared to be choking back tears as he described Croft’s troubled childhood.
“His mother had bipolar disorder that was so severe and unmanaged that she was on Social Security disability,” Blanchard explained.
“His father, who has been described as cold and detached, places aluminium foil on his bedroom ceiling to prevent aliens from accessing his brain waves. All of this is to say that Mr. Croft required some assistance.”
A jury failed to reach a verdict against Fox and Croft in April, prompting a judge to declare a mistrial before a second trial proved decisive.
Whitmer, who was re-elected last month, sparked far-right rage in 2020 when she imposed various lockdowns to stem the spread of Covid.
In an all-caps tweet, then-President Donald Trump appeared to support the opposition.
Whitmer had no comment beyond a statement she made when Croft and Fox were convicted, insisting that plots “against public officials and threats to the FBI are a disturbing extension of radicalised domestic terrorism that festers in our nation, threatening the very foundation of our republic,” according to a representative.
Other plotters included Ty Garbin, 27, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and received a 30-month sentence after cooperating with prosecutors, and Kaleb Franks, 28, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and received a four-year sentence after testifying.
In April, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta were acquitted of federal charges.