A man convicted of playing a key role in the plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has been sentenced to 19 1/2 years in prison on Wednesday, more than a co-defendant was paid.
A prosecutor called Barry Croft Jr., 47, an American version of Omar Abdel-Rahman, «The Blind Sheikh» who masterminded the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Croft and co-defendant Adam Fox, 39, were convicted in August of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and use a weapon of mass destruction to attack Whitmer, who drew hatred from far-right groups for his efforts to slow the spread. of Covid in 2020.
Fox was sentenced to 192 months (16 years) in prison Tuesday by US District Judge Robert Jonker, setting the stage in a Grand Rapids court for Croft’s fate and 235-month sentence.
While Jonker stopped short of handing down a life sentence requested by prosecutors, the judge largely agreed with the government’s position that Croft fueled the plot with dangerous rhetoric.
The judge called Croft the «idea boy» who goaded co-conspirators with «wrong» and «twisted» ideology.
“I think of Mr. Croft as the most serious culprit… even more so than Mr. Fox,” Jonker said. «I think he was the person who gave Mr. Fox something to hold on to.»
Assistant US Attorney Nils Kessler said Croft must be gone for an extended period of time to protect the public.
“This man is completely radicalized,” Kessler said. «He hasn’t changed his point of view.»
Kessler said Croft was just as dangerous as a foreign terrorist looking to harm Americans.
“He is the spiritual leader of this group, of this movement in the same way that a sheikh in ISIS or Al Qaeda might be,” Kessler said. «And they don’t have to be tactically sound or someone who’s the best guy with a gun on the battlefield — he was the ideas guy.»
Defense attorney Josh Blanchard pleaded with Jonker to review his client’s long history of mental illness and drug abuse. The lawyer seemed to hold back his emotions as he described Croft’s rocky childhood.
“Her mother suffered from bipolar disorder that is so severe and uncontrolled that she was on Social Security disability for it,” Blanchard said.
«His father, who has been described as cold and aloof, puts aluminum foil on the ceiling of his bedroom so aliens can’t get to his brain waves. I’m saying all this to say that Mr. Croft needed some intervention.»
In April, a jury returned no verdicts against Fox and Croft, forcing a judge to declare a mistrial before a the second trial was decisive.
Whitmer, who won re-election last month, was the focal point of far-right anger in 2020 when he imposed several lockdowns aimed at slowing the spread of Covid.
Then-President Donald Trump seemed to endorse that. opposition in a tweet in capital letters.
A representative for Whitmer said Wednesday that the governor had no comment beyond a statement she made when Croft and Fox were convicted, insisting that the plots «against public officials and threats to the FBI are a disturbing extension of the radicalized domestic terrorism festering in our nation, threatening the very foundations of our republic.»