Militiaman, 44, arrested in plot to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer was PARDONED final yr

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Barry Croft (pictured in musghot) was pardoned last year of several criminal offenses by Democratic Gov. John Carney

One of the militiamen who targeted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a now-botched kidnapping plot was pardoned just last year on several charges, including a gun offense and assault.

The 13 men involved are right-wing extremists who plotted to kidnap Whitmer at her vacation home in Michigan. They wanted to put her on trial for ‘treason’ in a safe house in Wisconsin, but had their plot foiled by the FBI.  

It’s been revealed that Barry G. Croft, one of the masterminds in the scheme, had a concerning criminal history that was dismissed by Democratic Gov. John Carney in 2019.

‘Needless to say, nobody — neither the DOJ nor the bipartisan Board of Pardons — would have endorsed a pardon had they known what the future held,’ said Mat Marshall, a spokeswoman for Democratic Attorney General Kathy Jennings.

It’s also been revealed that one of the men called President Trump as a ‘tyrant’ and described all government workers as ‘enemies’. Another man defended a confederate statue at a protest in June.   

Croft, 44, was taken into custody this week after being arrested by the FBI in Swedesboro, New Jersey. Croft made an initial appearance before a federal magistrate in Wilmington on Thursday.

Croft was being held Friday at a state prison in Wilmington. A hearing on his continued detention and removal to Michigan is scheduled for Tuesday.

Croft spent nearly three years in prison after being convicted on December 1, 1997, of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. That sentence followed a one-year stint that ended in March 1996. 

Governor Gretchen Whitmer (pictured) knew about the plot to kidnap her and had to be moved around with her family

Governor Gretchen Whitmer (pictured) knew about the plot to kidnap her and had to be moved around with her family 

In April 2019, one week after Delaware revenue officials filed a state tax lien against Croft for more than $36,700, Democratic Gov. John Carney granted him a pardon for the 1997 gun charge and several other convictions from 1994 to 1996. 

The crimes included assault, burglary, theft and receiving stolen property. 

Carney’s pardon came after a December 2018 Board of Pardons hearing at which the attorney general’s office did not object to Croft’s request for a pardon. 

The board’s recommendation for a pardon was based on the lack of opposition from the state ‘and the need for a pardon for employment purposes.”

‘The prior administration did not oppose this application because Croft’s criminal history was more than 20 years old and it appeared to everyone involved that his offenses were in his past and that he had gotten himself on the right track,’ said Marshall.

Jonathan Starkey, a spokesman for Carney, noted that the charges in Croft’s unopposed pardon petition were from 1994 and 1997, more than 20 years earlier, and the pardon was unopposed.

Barry Croft (pictured) said the government was 'coming for your freedom' in a previous video that began circulating on social media

Barry Croft (pictured) said the government was ‘coming for your freedom’ in a previous video that began circulating on social media

‘The charges brought in Michigan are disturbing and everyone charged in this plot should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,’ Starkey said. ‘This is also another warning sign about the growing threat of violence and radicalization in our politics.’

In addition to Croft´s criminal convictions, authorities in Delaware twice sought to have him declared a habitual offender for motor vehicle offenses, first in 1995 and again in 2004.

He was also the subject of a criminal judgment that was filed in July 2005 but not satisfied until 2018. It´s unclear what offense that involved.

According to the Delaware Department of Correction, Croft was last under DOC supervision in January 2005, when a period of probation ended.

Two of the men who have been charged with domestic terrorism, had their bail set at $10million. 

Brandon Caserta, in a video now circulating on social media, calls Trump a 'tyrant' and referring to all government workers as 'enemies'

Brandon Caserta, in a video now circulating on social media, calls Trump a ‘tyrant’ and referring to all government workers as ‘enemies’

Wow! This is big. Brandon Caserta, one of the ringleaders of the group of men arrested for a plot where the group planned to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer hated President Trump too!

“Trump is not your friend dude”

He says that Trump is “a tyrant” and describes him as an “enemy”. pic.twitter.com/SgaGOW8cS5

— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) October 8, 2020

On Friday morning, Dana Nessel, Michigan’s Attorney General, told CBS This Morning that the governor had been consistently updated about the investigation over the past couple months.

‘She was aware of things that were happening. At times, she and her family had been moved around as a result of activities that law enforcement was aware of,’ she said. 

Whitmer on Thursday called the men ‘sick and depraved’. 

She appeared to blame their plot on President Trump and his ‘rally cry’ to the Proud Boys for some of the hatred towards her and other Democrats. 

Other members of the group also posted on social media. 

Pete Musico, 42, the alleged founder of militia group Wolverine Watchmen – Michigan is nicknamed the Wolverine State – posted a series of videos on YouTube claiming the government was ‘robbing’ taxpayers.

One of the men accused, Shawn Fix, appeared via video link for a virtual bail hearing on Friday

One of the men accused, Shawn Fix, appeared via video link for a virtual bail hearing on Friday

Michael Null Ty Garbin

Michael Null, left, an alleged member of Wolverine Watchmen and Ty Garbin, right, who is also said to have been a member

Kaleb Franks Daniel Harris

Kaleb Franks and Daniel Harris, another of the two men allegedly involved

Adam Fox Brandon Caserta

Adam Fox (L) and Brandon Caserta (R) are among the 13 militia men charged over the plots

Joseph Morrison, 42 Pete Musico, 42

Joseph Morrison and Pete Musico, both 42, were arrested at Musico’s home in Munith and charged on Thursday

William Null Eric Molitor

William Null and Eric Molitor were charged by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office

‘When are you going to say enough is enough?’ he said. ‘When are you going to see they are taking our money from us? They are robbing us, wanting us to be like Venezuela?

‘These politicians keep on robbing us, and putting you against me, when we are facing the same problems in our life.’ 

 Grab the f***** Governor. Just grab the b***h’

In another video posted on social media by the men, Brandon Caserta, one of the men charged, fumes: ‘Trump is not your friend, dude.

‘It amazes me that people actually, like, believe that when he’s shown over and over and over again that he’s a tyrant. Every single person that works for government is your enemy, dude.’

According to authorities, the first group of six men started plotting in early June, carried out surveillance on her home and practiced shooting and combat drills. 

They also tried to build their own explosives, according to the FBI affidavit. 

The FBI discovered the plot through an informant who is also part of a known militia that the men tried to recruit from as part of a wider effort to ‘take’ the state capitol with 200 people. 

Fox and Croft were the ringleaders, according to the affidavit. 

They ‘agreed to unite others in their cause’ to ‘overthrow’ multiple state governments that they believe are violating the US. Constitution’. 

In one of the alleged meetings, he talked about kidnapping Whitmer as she made her way into her vacation home, and told one of the other men: ‘Grab the f***** Governor. 

‘Just grab the b***h’.’ 

Brandon Caserta, one of six men facing federal charges for a kidnap plot on Gretchen Whitmer, was charged on Thursday

Brandon Caserta, one of six men facing federal charges for a kidnap plot on Gretchen Whitmer, was charged on Thursday

 

 

Michael Null (left) and William Null (right) at a protest outside the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing in April. Null later defended a Confederate statue

Michael Null (left) and William Null (right) at a protest outside the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing in April. Null later defended a Confederate statue 

The alleged plot began with a meeting where the men discussed forming their own ‘self-sufficient’ society in early June. 

‘At one point, several members talked about state governments they believed were violating the US Constitution, including the government of Michigan and Governor Gretchen Whitmer,’ the FBI affidavit claimed. 

The men then tried to recruit members of the Michigan militia group to help, the affidavit claims.

In one phone call that the FBI informant recorded on June 14, Fox said he needed 200 men to storm the Capitol building in Lansing and take hostages including the Governor. 

He said they would ‘try the State Government for treason’ and that he would do all of this before the election. 

On June 20, the men met at Fox’s store in Grand Rapids. 

They held a meeting in the basement which was accessed through a trap door, hidden under a rug. Fox then made them all put their cell phones in a box which he took upstairs. The FBI informant was wearing a wire. 

At that meeting, the men discussed using ‘Molotov cocktails’ to attack police and take the Capitol Building. 

They also discussed meeting again to practice firearms and tactical training.

On June 25, Fox live streamed a video on a closed Facebook group where he ranted about Whitmer, calling her a ‘tyrant b***h’.  

He said: ‘I don’t know, boys, we gotta do something. You guys link with me on our other location system, give me some ideas of what we can do.’ 

On June 28, Fox, his girlfriend, Garbin, Franks and Caserta attended a training exercise in Munich, Michigan, at one of the militia member’s houses.

Franks left afterwards. 

Fox, Garbin, Caserta and the informant remained. They were told to leave though if they did not want to participate in the attacks against the government and politicians.

Between July 10-12, the group attended a different training exercise in Wisconsin. 

They practices shooting and combat drills and, according to the FBI, some of them tried to build  IEDs with ‘black powder, balloons, a fuse, and BB’s for shrapnel’.

‘They were faulty and didn’t detonate as planned but the attempted explosions were recorded on video.’ 

On July 18, some of the men met again in Ohio and discussed attacking a Michigan State Police facility. Garbin then discussed ‘shooting up’ Whitmer’s vacation home.

That day, he also said he did not want to go after the Capitol but was ‘cool’ with trying to kidnap her from her vacation home. 

On July 27, Fox told the informant that their best chance of kidnapping Whitmer would be as she was arriving or leaving her vacation home or the Governor’s summer residence.

He said it was a ‘snatch and grab’, and told the informant: ‘Grab the f****n’ Governor. Just grab the b***h. Because at that point, we do that dude, — it’s over.’

Later that day, on a group chat, he wrote: ‘OK, how’s everyone feeling about the kidnapping?’ None of the others replied. 

The following day, he wrote on a Facebook group: ‘We about to be busy ladies and gentlemen…This is where the Patriot shows up. Sacrifices his time, money, blood sweat and tears… it starts now so get f*****g prepared!!!’

According to the FBI affidavit, the men planned to then move her to a secure location in Wisconsin, where they would put her on ‘trial’ but they did not have a location in mind, and planned to use a realtor to find the safe house. 

On Thursday, Whitmer responded to the plot at a press conference where she appeared to blame the men’s antics on Donald Trump, one of her most vocal critics. 

‘When I put my hand on the Bible and took the oath of office 22 months ago, I knew this job would be hard but I have to be honest, I never could have imagined anything like this,’ she said. 

She called the men ‘sick and depraved’ and said now is a time for ‘unity’ and not ‘more division.’  

Joe Biden, Democrat presidential candidate, also said Trump was to blame for the plot. 

‘The words he utters matters,’ Biden said as he landed in Phoenix, Nevada to campaign with Kamala Harris and John McCain’s widow, Cindy. 

Asked if he thought Trump’s ‘LIBERATE MICHIGAN’ tweet encouraged militias like this, he said: ‘Yes I do.’

‘Why won’t the president just say: ‘Stop. Stop, stop, stop,’ and we will pursue you if you don’t,’ the Democratic candidate added.

Whitmer was widely criticized for her tough lockdown rules in Michigan earlier this year.

There were widespread protests in the state by people who said they wanted the right to continue to work, including by some who stormed the state capitol with guns. 

Her residence has received security updates in recent weeks.  

On Thursday morning, three hours before the FBI announcement, Trump called Whitmer the ‘lockdown queen,’ having previously called her ‘that woman from Michigan.’ 

He told Fox Business News’ Maria Bartiromo: ‘I won Michigan, which hadn’t been won in decades and decades. 

‘And we should win it again because I brought so much business there because she’s the lockup queen. 

‘What she’s done to that, that place is horrible. She’s locked it up. She’s got people like living in prison. The courts just overturned her. They said what you’re doing is unconstitutional.’ 

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