A man convicted of playing a key role in the plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was sentenced to 19½ years in prison Wednesday, more than what was meted out to a co-defendant.
A prosecutor called Barry Croft Jr., 47, an American version of Omar Abdel-Rahman, the so-called 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 to use a weapon of mass destruction to attack Whitmer, who drew the hatred of far-right groups for her efforts to curb the spread of Covid in 2020.
Fox was sentenced to 16 years in prison Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker, setting the stage in a Grand Rapids courtroom for Croft's fate and sentence of 235 months.
While Jonker stopped short of issuing a life sentence sought by prosecutors, he largely agreed with the government's stance that Croft fueled the plot with dangerous rhetoric.
Jonker called Croft the "idea guy" who egged on co-conspirators with "wrong" and "twisted" ideology.
“I do think of Mr. Croft as the more seriously culpable … more so than even Mr. Fox," Jonker said. “I think he was the person who gave Mr. Fox something to grab on to."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler said Croft needs to go away for a long time to protect the public.
“This man is thoroughly radicalized," Kessler said. "He hasn’t changed his viewpoint.”
Kessler said Croft was every bit as dangerous as a foreign terrorist seeking to harm Americans.
"He’s the spiritual leader of this group, of this movement, the same way some sheik in ISIS or Al Qaeda might be," Kessler said. "And they don't have to be tactically sound or somebody who is the best guy with a gun on the battlefield — he was the ideas guy."
Defense attorney Josh Blanchard pleaded with Jonker to look at his client's long history of mental illness and drug abuse. Blanchard appeared to choke back emotions as he described Croft's unstable childhood.
“His mother suffered from bipolar disorder that’s so significant and unmanaged that she had Social Security disability for it," Blanchard said.
"His father, who has been described as cold and detached, puts aluminum foil on his ceiling on his bedroom so aliens can’t reach his brain waves. I say all of this to say that Mr. Croft needed some intervention."
Then-President Donald Trump appeared to back the opposition in an all-caps tweet.
A representative said Wednesday that Whitmer had no comment beyond a statement she made when Croft and Fox were convicted, insisting that plots "against public officials and threats to the FBI are a disturbing extension of radicalized domestic terrorism that festers in our nation, threatening the very foundation of our republic."
In addition to Fox and Croft, other plotters included Ty Garbin, 27, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and was sentenced 30 months after cooperating with prosecutors; and Kaleb Franks, 28, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and was sentenced to four years, also after testifying.