Co-leader of a conspiracy to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was sentenced Tuesday to 16 years in prison for conspiring to kidnap the Democrat and blow up a bridge to facilitate escape.
Adam Fox’s sentence is the longest of any so far convicted in the conspiracy, although it is significantly shorter than the life sentence prosecutors were seeking.
Fox, 39, returned four months after he and Barry Croft Jr. were convicted of conspiracy at a second trial in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
They have been accused of organizing a wild conspiracy to incite anti-government extremists ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Her arrest, along with the capture of 12 others, was a stunning coda to a turbulent year of race strife and political unrest in the United States
The government said Croft offers bomb-making skills and ideology, while Fox is the “force that urges its recruits to take up arms, kidnap the governor and kill those who stood in their way.” .
But Judge Robert J. Jonker said that while Fox’s conviction was necessary as punishment and deterrence for future similar acts, the government’s request for life imprisonment “is not necessary to achieve those ends.”
“It’s too much. A little less than life does the job in this case,” Jonker said, later adding that 16 years in prison “is still a very long time on my mind.”
Jonker said he also takes into account the emotional baggage Whitmer is carrying as a result of the conspiracy.
“It undoubtedly affects other people who are in public office or who are considering public office,” he said. “You have to consider the cost. This requires a final conviction by the court.”
In addition to the prison sentence, Fox is serving five years of supervised release. He is also credited with serving more than two years in prison since his arrest.
“Responding to domestic terrorist plans has been a priority for the Justice Department since its inception, and we will continue to spare no expense to ensure we disrupt such plans,” US Attorney Andrew Birge told reporters outside the courthouse sentencing.
Fox wore orange prison garb with long hair slicked back and a full beard. He showed little reaction when the sentence was read.
Daniel Harris, who was acquitted by a jury earlier this year of his involvement in the conspiracy, sat next to Fox’s mother in the gallery and hugged her after the verdict was read. Fox looked at the gallery several times and often formed words.
He shook his head and grinned repeatedly while Assistant US Attorney Nils Kessler spoke. Kessler said Fox’s grin was a sign he showed no regrets.
Fox and Croft were convicted in a second trial in August, months after another Grand Rapids jury failed to reach a verdict but acquitted Harris and another man. Croft, a trucker from Bear, Delaware, will be sentenced Wednesday.
In 2020, Fox and Croft met with like-minded provocateurs in Ohio, trained with guns in Michigan and Wisconsin, and took a drive to “watch” Whitmer’s vacation home with night vision goggles, according to evidence.
“People need to stop the misplaced anger and direct the anger where it belongs, and that’s against our tyrannical … government,” Fox declared this spring, boiling over the COVID-19 restrictions and perceived threat to gun ownership.
Whitmer was not physically injured. The FBI, secretly embedded in the group, broke things up by the fall.
“They had no real plan as to what to do with the governor if they actually intervened here. Paradoxically, that didn’t make them any less dangerous, it made them more dangerous,” Kessler said in a court filing before the hearing.
At the time, Fox was living in the basement of a vacuum store in the Grand Rapids area, the site of clandestine meetings with members of a paramilitary group and an undercover FBI agent. His attorney, Christopher Gibbons, said he was depressed, anxious and smoked marijuana on a daily basis.
Gibbons said a life sentence would be extreme.
Jonker said there was nothing that made him think of Fox as a “natural leader,” but said conspiracies like the Whitmer kidnapping conspiracy took “a lot of fuel” and that Fox “provided it.”
“It’s important to recognize that the likelihood of this ever happening was thankfully slim because law enforcement responded early,” Jonker said. “I think the odds of that actually happening were incredibly slim.”
When he pleaded for life in prison on Tuesday, Kessler said, “I think you could say none of this would have happened if Mr. Fox wasn’t involved.”
“They wanted a second civil war or a second revolution,” Kessler said of the conspirators before Jonker’s verdict. “They wanted to ruin everything for everyone. This was not about masks or vaccines. They talked about overthrowing the government before the coronavirus pandemic. They had enough weapons and armor for a small war.”
Fox was regularly subjected to “seditious rhetoric” from FBI whistleblowers, particularly Army veteran Dan Chappel, who “manipulated not only Fox’s sense of ‘patriotism,’ but also his need for friendship, acceptance and male approval,” Gibbons said in a court filing .
Two men who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and testified against Fox and Croft received significant breaks: Ty Garbin is already free after serving a two-and-a-half year sentence, while Kaleb Franks has been sentenced to four years in prison.
Three members of a paramilitary group who had trained at Fox were found guilty of providing material support to a terrorist attack in October. Their sentences, which were handed down in a state court earlier this month, ranged from 7 to 12 years.
Five others are awaiting trial in Antrim County, where Whitmer’s vacation home is located.
When the conspiracy was wiped out, Whitmer blamed then-President Donald Trump, saying he “brought comfort to those who spread fear, hatred and division.” In August, 19 months after leaving office, Trump said the kidnapping plot was a “fake deal.”
© Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.