COVID-19 delays trial in plot to abduct Mich. Gov. Whitmer

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FILE - This combination of photos provided by the Kent County Sheriff and the Delaware Department of Justice shows, top row from left, Brandon Caserta and Barry Croft; and bottom row from left, Adam Dean Fox and Daniel Harris. The four members of anti-government groups are facing trial in March 2022 on federal charges accusing them in a plot to abduct Michigan's Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2020. Jury selection begins Tuesday, March 8, 2022, in a trial the presiding judge at the U.S. District Court courthouse in Grand Rapids, Mich., said could take over a month. (Kent County Sheriff, Delaware Department of Justice via AP File)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The trial of four men accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer over her COVID-19 restrictions didn't resume as scheduled Monday after someone tested positive for the virus.

U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker did not identify the person in his order Sunday, saying only that an “essential trial participant” tested positive over the weekend. The trial might resume Thursday.

The trial, which involves 18 jurors, four defendants and a raft of lawyers and support staff, started last week in a windowless courtroom in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The jury heard some evidence Wednesday and Thursday before going home for the weekend.

Masks were optional in court. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Roth was the only lawyer to wear one, removing it only to deliver his opening statement to the jury and to question witnesses.

The defendants — Adam Fox, Barry Croft Jr., Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta — were not wearing masks and neither was the judge. One juror had a mask.

Undercover FBI agents and informants are expected to testify in the coming weeks, along with two men, Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks, who have pleaded guilty to a scheme to kidnap Whitmer because of her tough policies during the early months of the pandemic. The trial could last more than a month.

On Thursday, jurors for the first time heard a recording of one of the men specifically talk about kidnapping Whitmer, a Democrat. Croft could be heard saying it should be “a quick, precise grab.”

It was an early rebuttal by prosecutors to defense claims that the men were somehow entrapped or tricked by the FBI into joining a kidnapping conspiracy that wouldn’t have occurred to them otherwise.

In 2020, Whitmer was trading taunts with then-President Donald Trump over his administration’s response to COVID-19. Her critics regularly protested at the Michigan Capitol, clogging streets around the statehouse and legally carrying semi-automatic rifles into the building.

Whitmer, who is seeking reelection this year, rarely talks publicly about the case. She has blamed Trump for fomenting anger over coronavirus restrictions and refusing to condemn right-wing extremists like those charged in the case. She has said Trump was complicit in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.


White reported from Detroit.


Find AP’s full coverage of the Whitmer kidnap plot trial at: