A United States judge has sentenced a militia member accused of helping to mastermind a plot to kidnap Michigan’s governor to more than 19 years in prison, the last in a series of sentencing hearings related to the conspiracy.
Barry Croft Jr, a member of the far-right Three Percenters militia group, was sentenced on Wednesday after being convicted of conspiracy and possession of an unregistered explosive. Another participant and militia member, Adam Fox, received a 16-year sentence on Tuesday.
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“Although he may not have had hierarchical control over all the other participants, he [Croft] coordinated and pushed the implementation of the conspiracy from its inception to its final stages,” Assistant US Attorney Nils Kessler said in a court filing.
Croft is the fourth and final federal defendant in the case to be handed a sentence, part of a high-profile series of arrests that has brought attention to the growing threat of far-right militia groups in the US. Prosecutors depicted Croft and Fox as the leaders of an operation they hoped would trigger a “second American revolution”.
Prosecutors said the group planned to abduct Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan’s Democratic governor, from her vacation home in 2020 in order to give her a sham “trial” on charges of treason and potentially execute her.
Members of the group were opposed to public health measures put in place under Whitmer to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Croft and Fox were also found guilty of planning to use an explosive device that prosecutors said would be used to hinder law enforcement response to the kidnapping. In addition to his 16-year sentence, Fox was given five years of supervised release.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the US domestic intelligence agency, was embedded in the group, and 13 people, including Croft and Fox, were charged in October 2020 in relation to the conspiracy.
Croft was convicted alongside Fox in August on charges of conspiracy at a trial in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A different jury in Grand Rapids failed to reach a verdict on Croft and Cox in an initial trial earlier in the year and acquitted two others.
Prosecutors sought life sentences for both Croft and Fox. Croft’s lawyer, Joshua Blanchard, had played down his client’s centrality in the plot, saying that he was “a participant to a lesser degree than others”.
Whitmer had openly sparred with former US President Donald Trump over public health policies in her state meant to contain the spread of COVID-19, and Trump was accused of contributing to a hostile environment through his repeated attacks on Whitmer.
In April 2020, when crowds that included armed militia members converged on the Michigan state capitol to call for an end to social distancing measures, Trump called on his followers to “liberate” Michigan.
Months later, chants of “lock her up” broke out at a Trump campaign rally in response to his criticism of Whitmer.