Jury selected for Michigan Governor Whitmer kidnap plot trial

On Tuesday, a jury was chosen for the trial of four men accused of plotting against Michigan Governor. Gretchen Whitmer in 2020.

Jury selected for Michigan Governor Whitmer kidnap plot trial

The extraordinary allegations of violence against an elected official led the presiding judge, to say: "This is not your average criminal case."

Wednesday's opening statements were set for the Federal Court in Grand Rapids. Prosecutors claim that the men were upset about the pandemic restrictions imposed by the Democratic governor. They will present secret recordings, other evidence, and a trip to inspect Whitmer's vacation house and weapons and explosives training against them.

Defense lawyers claim that Whitmer was not involved in any conspiracy to kidnap him. They have also signaled an "entrapment defense" by criticizing government use of confidential informants and undercover FBI agents.

Eleven women and seven male jurors were chosen. Twelve will decide the case, while six alternates will. However, the court didn't clarify Tuesday which jurors were alternates. Robert Jonker, U.S. District Judge, told the jury before they left the courtroom to refrain from discussing the case on social media with their families.

He said, "Put them in pause."

Jonker instructed prospective jurors Tuesday that they should forget about any personal feelings regarding Whitmer, politics, or Whitmer's administration's response on COVID-19 in order to hear the case fairly. Many said that they were unsure if they could be impartial.

After asked potential jurors questions showed that they disapprove Whitmer. One man said, "I would probably have been pretty biased." Another man was dismissed saying he had closely followed the news coverage and believed they were guilty.

Some were fired because of home or job conflicts. The trial could last more than one month.

Whitmer began to exchange teasing words with Donald Trump in 2020 over his response to COVID-19. , her critics, were meanwhile regularly protesting at the Michigan Capitol. They blocked streets around the statehouse, and legaly brought semi-automatic rifles into it.

Prosecutors claim that during those turbulent times, when stay-at-home orders were in effect and the economy was limited, Adam Fox and Brandon Caserta and Barry Croft Jr. devised a plan to seize Whitmer.

They are accused of taking crucial steps over several months including secret messaging and gun drills in woods, and a night drive from northern Michigan to search her second home and figure how to blow up the bridge.

Infiltrating the group, the FBI said that it stopped the plan by arresting six men in October 2020. Two of the men, Ty Garbin and Kaleb Frans have pleaded guilty to being key witnesses for government. This will give jurors a better understanding of the plan.

Garbin stated that Fox, the alleged ringleader wanted the men to contribute $4,000 for an explosive large enough to demolish a bridge near Whitmer and distract police during kidnapping.

Garbin quoted Caserta saying that "the blood of tyrants must be shed."

Franks and Garbin insist that no member of the group was influenced by agents or undercover informants.

John Smietanka, a former federal prosecutions, stated that the cooperation between the two was not the end of their case. It will come down to credibility of witnesses and the effects of any extrinsic evidence like tapes.

On Tuesday, the marshals assisted the defendants with handcuffs or leg restraints into and out of the courtroom. The morning proceedings saw the four men and their lawyers sitting at separate conference tables that were located along one side of the courtroom. Harris and Croft wore suits and ties while Caserta & Fox wore dresses shirts and pants. As they filed in, all four men turned towards potential jurors. The handcuffs were taken off and the bunting that was hanging from the tables blocked potential jurors' views of the leg restraints were also removed.

The 22-county region that stretches from the Grand Rapids metro to the tip of Michigan's Lower Peninsula was used as the pool of potential jurors. It includes western and northern Michigan. This region is predominantly rural and leans Republican. However, Democrats have recently won in Grand Rapids, the state's second largest city, and in Kent County, which backed Whitmer. She won only two other counties.

Whitmer, who is running for reelection in 2018, rarely speaks publicly about the case. She is not expected to attend the trial. She has blamed Trump, accusing him of inciting mistrust and fomenting animosity over coronavirus regulations and refusing condemn hate groups and right wing extremists such as those accused in the plot. He was also a complicit in the Jan. 6 Capitol Insurrection, she has claimed.

Eight men are being prosecuted by the state for aiding the group.

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