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Judge gives participant 16 years in prison for Michigan governor kidnap plot

Prosecutors wanted a life sentence, but the judge said the defendant was a follower and not a leader in the attempt to kidnap Michigan's Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

By Steven Ford
A federal judge sentenced Adam Fox to 16 years in prison for his involvement in the plot. Photo courtesy of Kent County Sheriff's Office
1 of 3 | A federal judge sentenced Adam Fox to 16 years in prison for his involvement in the plot. Photo courtesy of Kent County Sheriff's Office | License Photo

Dec. 27 (UPI) -- A federal judge sentenced Adam Fox to 16 years in prison Tuesday for his involvement in the 2020 plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Prosecutors had asked for a life sentence for Fox, 39, and called him an integral part of a domestic-terrorism plan to kidnap the governor because of her COVID-19 pandemic response in the state.

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But U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker of the Western District of Michigan agreed with defense lawyers, saying Fox was a follower -- and not a leader -- of the group of men who were implicated in the plot.

Fox was arrested in an FBI sting in Ypsilanti in October 2020 in which federal authorities allege he and four other men were trying to purchase explosives to carry out the plan against the governor. A fifth man, Barry Croft Jr. of Bear, Del., was arrested a day afterward, tried and faces sentencing Wednesday.

Two men, Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks, pleaded guilty to charges. Two other men, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta, were found not guilty by a jury in April. Harris was acquitted on all four counts and Caserta was acquitted on a single count for kidnapping conspiracy.

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In August, a jury found Fox and Croft guilty after previous trials for both men resulted in hung juries. Fox was convicted of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and of trying to use a weapon of mass destruction to attack the governor.

The defendants argued that the government's case against them relied on entrapment by out-of-control FBI agents and informants, including the government's star witness who went undercover to assist the FBI with its sting operation.

The judge said he used a 2018-19 Northern California case as a guide in sentencing Fox. That case resulted in a prison sentence for ISIS sympathizer Amer Alhaggagi that was 15 years less than what prosecutors had sought.

"You have to calibrate, as judges, the overall seriousness of wrongdoing and the overall seriousness of the defendant's history," Jonker said.

Calling Fox an "unemployed vacuum repairman," defense lawyer Christopher Gibbons said "the government ... employs exaggerated language to create the false narrative of a terrifying paramilitary leader," adding that, "these histrionic descriptions of Adam Fox do not rationally address his actual conduct and they do not accurately reflect either his actual intentions or his actual capabilities."

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler said Fox was a "willing and able operations leader" and that he "targeted not just any victim, but an official victim; and not just any official, but the head of a state. He was no follower; he was an active recruiter and prime mover."

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Fox didn't speak at Tuesday's sentencing hearing in Grand Rapids, but three of his relatives asked the judge for leniency on his behalf.

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