Opening statements in Whitmer kidnap retrial more aggressive, precise

GRAND RAPIDS — Both sides in the Gov. Gretchen Whitmer kidnapping retrial ramped up their intensity during opening statements Wednesday, hammering away at certain themes more aggressively and precisely than they did the last time.

The prosecution laid out a more concrete timeline and more strongly emphasized that the alleged kidnapping plan was hatched before the FBI ever got involved. And the defense urged the jury to consider the actions of several FBI agents and informants who won’t be testifying at trial, essentially planting seeds in the jurors’ minds that there may be more to this case than meets the eye.

The first trial in the case ended with no convictions. Two men were acquitted. The jury deadlocked on the two others, triggering a mistrial, so the government is trying again.

Prosecutors: This wasn’t entrapment

The prosecution, which went first, took aim at the defense’s entrapment theory right out of the gate, emphasizing repeatedly that the defendants wanted to harm the governor long before they encountered the undercover FBI agents and informants who infiltrated their militia group. Prosecutors stressed that the case is about more than just COVID-19 restrictions.

The case involves six militia members who were charged in 2020 with plotting to kidnap Whitmer, planning to blow up a bridge near her home to slow down law enforcement, out of anger over her handling of the pandemic. Two have pleaded guilty. Two were acquitted at trial in April. Adam Fox and Barry Croft face this retrial after the jury deadlock.

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