Trial starts for Delaware man, others accused of trying to kidnap Michigan governor

Barry Croft of Bear, Delaware joins a group of defendants going on trial today for their role in a plot to kidnap and kill Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

The governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer

In a photo provided by the Michigan Office of the Governor, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the state during a speech in Lansing, Mich., Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. (Michigan Office of the Governor via AP)

Barry Croft was arrested at his Delaware home in October 2020 on charges stemming from a plot to kidnap and kill Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. According to FBI charging documents, the group of men saw Whitmer as leading a government that was violating the U.S. Constitution following restrictions put in place in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the summer of 2020, the federal arrest affidavit says, Croft met with more than a dozen others from several states in Dublin, Ohio to talk about “creating a society” that followed the U.S. Bill of Rights, and where they could be self-sufficient. The group discussed ways to accomplish their mission, “from peaceful endeavors to violent actions,’’ the complaint said.

A confidential FBI informant who recorded the meeting was among those in attendance.

Speaking in a January interview on YouTube, Croft denied conspiring to kidnap Whitmer and said federal informants were to blame. The video was posted by The Free Men Report, a group that describes themselves as “pro-liberty activists” who discuss “how to be politically feared, and how to effect political change.”

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“Nobody really conspired to do this thing they’re accusing us of,” Croft said in the January interview from Newaygo County Jail in White Cloud, Michigan. “It was more the informants who conspired amongst each other to set this up.”

Croft and others are also accused of attending what authorities called a “field training exercise’’ in early July in Wisconsin. Croft and a militia member “attempted to construct an improvised explosive device [IED], using black powder, balloons, a fuse, and BBs for shrapnel,” and another device using similar components, the affidavit said.

Neither device detonated, however, according to the affidavit, which relied on video provided by an informant.

“I really hope that the facts are allowed to be brought out at trial because the government is really fighting hard to keep the facts out of trial,” Croft said in the January interview. “It shows not only that the informants built the whole entire criminal enterprise, but that they gave instructions to people who were otherwise unknowing what was going on behind the scenes. It’s really a messy ordeal.”

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When U.S. District Magistrate Judge Sally Berens denied bond for Croft last year, she described him as “probably the most committed violent extremist” of those accused in the Whitmer kidnapping plot. She ruled that giving Croft Jr. bond would be too much of a risk to the community.

Jury selection begins today in Michigan for Croft and four co-defendants.

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