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Jury finds Harris, Caserta not guilty in governor kidnapping plot trial; mistrial declared on other counts

A mistrial was declared in the cases against Adam Fox and Barry Croft after the jury was unable to come to a decision on their charges.
Day 20 sketch 1 - Fox and Gibbons and Kelley Harris Hill Caserta and Blanchard.jpg
Posted at 2:15 PM, Apr 08, 2022

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A jury has found Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta not guilty in the governor kidnapping plot trial. A mistrial was declared in the cases against Adam Fox and Barry Croft after the jury was unable to come to a decision on their charges.

The jury reached its verdict on the fifth day of deliberations.

Here’s a breakdown of the jury’s decision:

Adam Fox

Conspiracy to Kidnap: Mistrial
Conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction: Mistrial

Barry Croft

Conspiracy to kidnap: Mistrial
Conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction: Mistrial
Possession of an unregistered destructive device: Mistrial

Daniel Harris

Conspiracy to kidnap: Not guilty
Conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction: Not guilty
Possession of an unregistered destructive device: Not guilty
Possession of a semi-automatic rifle with a barrel less than 16 inches: Not guilty

Brandon Caserta

Conspiracy to kidnap: Not guilty

Harris was facing the most charges out of all four of the defendants and could have faced the possibility of life in prison if he was found guilty. The jury found him not guilty on every count.

Within 15 minutes of the jury forewoman reading the verdicts, Harris was a free man.

His attorney Julia Kelley spoke to FOX 17 as she was leaving court and said Harris is elated to be going home with his family.

“I couldn’t be more proud, more happier for my client. He told me from day one that he was not guilty of what he was accused of,” said Kelley. “And him taking the stand, he did such an incredible job telling the truth, and the jury believed him. I’m so happy they gave him the benefit of that. Pretty incredible.”

She went on to say, “He’s so happy, he’s gone with his family. His sisters were here, his mom and dad here every day. So, it’s just an incredible thing to have him home.”

Caserta, on the other hand, was facing the least number of charges out of all four of the defendants. The jury also found him not guilty.

For Caserta, the not guilty verdict could be seen as a birthday gift, as his family mentioned that today happens to be his birthday.

FOX 17 caught up with Caserta’s attorney Michael Hill who said Caserta had already left the courthouse and was walking around downtown Grand Rapids as a free man.

“We have the freedom to say that if I don't like the governor, and it's rough talk, I can do that in our country. That's what's beautiful about this country. That's what's great about it,” said Hill.

As for Fox and Croft, they will be taken back to jail for now. U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge issued a statement following the verdict indicating charges would be refiled against Fox and Croft.

“Although we are disappointed the jury did not reach decisions in our favor, we continue to respect the jury trial system whatever the outcome. And we thank the jury for their service. Two defendants now await re-trial and, for that reason, we have no further statement at this time.”

Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta were all arrested in October of 2020 and charged with conspiracy to kidnap for allegedly planning to kidnap Governor Whitmer at her vacation home. Fox, Croft and Harris are all facing additional charges.

The men were supposedly angry over COVID-19 restrictions and allegedly planned it from June to October 2020.

The defense argued that the defendants were entrapped by undercover agents and informants who pushed the plan forward.

Earlier in the day, the jury said it has reached a decision on some charges but was locked on others in the trial of four men accused of plotting to kidnap and kill Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

First thing Friday morning, court staff brought the jury a piece of evidence they requested late on Thursday afternoon: a bag of pennies that prosecutors allege the defendants had attached to a firework during their preparations to carry out the kidnapping plot.

The jury took the bag with them to inspect.

Just before 11 a.m., the jurors sent a note to Judge Jonker. The jury’s note read, “We have come to a decision on several counts but are locked on others. How do we proceed from here?”

Judge Jonker told the jury to continue its deliberations, encouraging those in the minority to reconsider their stance. He also advised them not to come to a conclusion just to “get it over with.”

The verdict was read just after 2 p.m. Friday.

Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks were originally charged in the case but made plea deals with the government and turned on the rest of the defendants. Garbin is serving a six-year sentence on a kidnapping conspiracy charge. Franks has not yet been sentenced but said he had hoped his cooperation would get him a reduced sentence.

Statement released by Governor Whitmer's office

Governor Gretchen Whitmer's Chief of Staff, JoAnne Huls, released the following statement Friday afternoon on behalf of Governor Whitmer's office.

“Today, Michiganders and Americans—especially our children—are living through the normalization of political violence. The plot to kidnap and kill a governor may seem like an anomaly. But we must be honest about what it really is: the result of violent, divisive rhetoric that is all too common across our country. There must be accountability and consequences for those who commit heinous crimes. Without accountability, extremists will be emboldened.

“The governor remains focused on her work on behalf of Michigan and all Michiganders. That includes addressing violence and threats to our democracy. We appreciate the prosecutors and law enforcement officers for their work on this case.”

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