GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Defense attorneys for the men still facing federal charges for the alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer began the process of calling witnesses late Thursday, continuing into Friday.
The government concluded its case against Adam Fox and Barry Croft on Thursday afternoon around 1 p.m.
They are facing charges of conspiracy to kidnap and possession of a weapon of mass destruction. Croft alone is also facing a charge for allegedly possessing what the government calls a "destructive device."
Attorneys Begin Calling Witnesses Thursday Afternoon:
On Thursday, the defense first called Margaret Anderson, a business owner in Wisconsin.
In July of 2020, Barry Croft came to visit Anderson and her husband at their home. While there, Croft, along with his three daughters, took photographs in Anderson's "old-time picture studio" dressed up in what the government called a "Confederate general costume."
She said that Croft was acting "normal" while he visited, and social distancing from her husband, who had cancer.
The next witness was Colleen Kuester, who attended the July 12 gathering in Cambria, where members of the Wolverine Watchmen were present.
Their family was invited to a "family fun day" by undercover informant Steve Robeson.
Kuester brought her 14-year-old son to the event, as he wanted to participate in some firearm target practice.
While defense attorneys painted the gathering as an innocent gathering of families, the government asserted that Kuester did not see or hear everything that was happening that day.
Prosecutors played an audio clip of Croft recorded that day, allegedly building an explosive device and being approached by his young daughter.
"Daddy, do you want a Dorito?" Croft's daughter asks in the clip.
"Honey, I’m making explosives. Can you get away from me? I love you," Croft seemingly responds.
When Kuester was played the clip, she responded, "At least he told his daughter to leave."
The government then played a short recording where Croft says something about a “precise grab on that f—ing governor.”
Kuester said she would have been bothered by that sort of talk if she would have heard it in person herself.
Testimony Continues Friday Morning:
The defense began the day by calling Lauren Hastings, an FBI employee who acted as an online covert employee (OCE) in the investigation into the Wolverine Watchmen.
Hastings was tasked with communicating with Adam Fox and his ex-girlfriend Amanda Keller via Facebook.
She used the pseudonym Alice Marie and posed as the fictional girlfriend of the man known to the group as Mark Woods, undercover FBI Agent Mark Schweers.
When asked if she "played on his sympathy and friendship," Hastings said she did.
She also read a message that she had sent to FBI Special Agent Jayson Chambers, one of the case agents, where she passed along a sentiment from undercover agent Timothy Bates, known to the group as Red.
Bates was offering to "get more evidence against Croft if needed."
Megan Cooley was then called by the defense, but was not physically present in the courtroom.
A defense staffer took the stand and read from a transcript of a prior interview with Cooley.
The 22-year-old from Shelby Township had smoked cannabis with Fox on some occasion.
John Pinrod was next on the stand.
Pinrod was part of a joint terrorism task force and tasked with handling undercover informant Jenny Plunk.
The defense had Pinrod read several messages he sent Plunk during the investigation.
"For a guy who seems to be itching for a fight, he sure seems like a coward," one of them read.
Another said, "This is what I don't get ... Nobody else was as freaked as him. He's the biggest loudmouth in the room. He just needs to be called a p—sy."
Pinrod also acknowledged that he and plunk called Croft, at various points in the investigation, "moron," "bonehead" and "coward."
He was also present after Croft was arrested when he submitted to an initial interview with investigators that lasted several hours.
Up next for the defense was Corey Baumgaurdner, who handled undercover informant Steve Robeson.
He said that Robeson began as an informant with the FBI back in October 2019, months before the agency became aware of the Wolverine Watchmen.
Baumgaurdner was played an audio recording of FBI Special Agent Henrik Impola saying, "A saying we have in my office, don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story."
On redirect from the government, Baumgaurdner alleged that Impola was actually talking about the defendants in that statement, not something the FBI believes itself.
Bill Moorian, a former detective with the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, was called next.
After that, the defense rested their case.
Defense Rests Their Case:
While they decided to make their presentation of witnesses and proofs much shorter than the government's, the burden of proof always falls on prosecutors to prove the allegations made against defendants.
The government was given a chance to offer a rebuttal following the defense's case, though they chose to say nothing Friday.
Court went through jury instructions around 10:15 a.m. Friday, with closing arguments beginning in the early afternoon.