Judge denies bid for new trial in Whitmer kidnapping case

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A federal judge has denied a new trial request by two men convicted of conspiring to kidnap Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Lawyers for am Fox and Barry Croft Jr. alleged misconduct by a juror and unfairness by U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker following their conviction by a federal jury in August.

Jonker in a written ruling Friday shot down claims of juror misconduct and said he found “no constitutional violation and no credible evidence” to convene a new hearing.

Fox and Croft face up to life in prison when they’re sentenced Dec. 28.

Whitmer, who was reelected Nov. 8 to a second term, was never physically harmed in the plot, which led to more than a dozen arrests in 2020.

Fox and Croft’s first trial ended in a mistrial earlier this year when the jury was unable to come to a unanimous verdict. A motion for a third trial was filed in September.

Defense lawyers said a juror seated in the second trial was described by a co-worker as “far-left leaning,” was eager to get on the jury and poised to convict before hearing evidence.

The defense team’s investigator said he interviewed two co-workers who said they had heard about it but had no firsthand knowledge. A third person declined to speak to him in the parking lot.

The allegation first was raised early in the second trial. Jonker said he spoke privately to the juror, who denied saying that a vote to convict was already settled.

Separately, defense lawyers said the judge violated the rights of Fox and Croft by imposing a time limit on the cross-examination of a star government witness.

“Defendants have neither demonstrated that the jury verdict is ‘against the manifest weight of the evidence’ nor that a ‘substantial legal error has occurred’ such that the interests of justice demand a new trial,” Jonker wrote in Friday’s ruling.

Croft is from Bear, Delaware. Fox lived in the Grand Rapids area in western Michigan.

Two other men have pleaded guilty in the federal case, while two more were acquitted.

Three other men accused of supporting terrorism in the kidnapping plot were convicted in October in state court.

Joe Morrison; Morrison’s father-in-law, Pete Musico; and Paul Bellar were found guilty of supplying “material support” for a terrorist act as members of a group known as the Wolverine Watchmen. They await sentencing on Dec. 15.

They held gun training in rural Jackson County with Fox who was disgusted with Whitmer and other officials and said he wanted to snatch her.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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