A Michigan federal judge sentenced a man convicted of plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to nearly 20 years in prison Wednesday.
Barry Croft Jr. was part of a plan to kidnap the Democratic governor from her summer home in 2020 and practiced detonating explosives in preparation, prosecutors have said.
Croft, who was sentenced to 235 months in federal prison, the longest sentence of the people convicted, is the last of the defendants in federal court to be sentenced in connection to the plot. Prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence Croft to life in prison.
Explaining his sentencing decision, Judge Robert Jonker said, “I’m not somebody who’s willing ever to give up on somebody. And that’s why I think, in particular, life sentences are very unusual.”
“Because, by definition, you’re not giving people a chance to come back into the fold,” he said.
But Jonker also agreed with prosecutors that Croft was a leader to others involved in the plot, and noted his previous criminal history when handing down the sentence.
A Delaware resident, Croft had traveled to Michigan to work with the local militia members to plan and surveil Whitmer’s summer home in the summer of 2020. Croft discussed using his grenade launcher and a mounted machine gun to thwart law enforcement response to the scene as a part in the kidnapping plot, jurors heard at trial.
Trial evidence also showed that Croft practiced detonating an explosive filled with shrapnel at a training event using human silhouettes made of paper.
Croft’s attorney, Joshua Blanchard, had asked the court Wednesday to administer a sufficient sentence but “not longer than it needs to be.”
In a lengthy plea to the court, Blanchard asked the judge to consider Croft’s history of substance abuse and mental health concerns related largely to his significant marijuana use and family medical history.
He blamed much of Croft’s behavior in 2020 to intoxication and said Croft ended up in the courtroom having fallen down a “conspiracy rabbit hole” during solo rides as a long-haul truck driver before his arrest.
Blanchard acknowledged his client is “a bit more susceptible to fringe ideas” and said he understands that Croft should serve a fair prison sentence – but not a life sentence.
Croft declined to speak on his own behalf at the sentencing hearing, citing advice from his attorney.
But the prosecutor pushed back on the defense arguments Wednesday, telling the court, “This man is thoroughly radicalized.”
“He hasn’t changed his viewpoint,” prosecutor Nils Kessler said.
Kessler said during his argument that Croft was the “spiritual leader” of the group “putting himself in the role of prophet.”
He also went on to argue that Croft encouraged the other participants by saying they would be the “new founding fathers.”
“People believed it,” Kessler said.
Croft has long been known to law enforcement for his extreme anti-government views. And in his sentencing memo, prosecutors noted a jail call recorded earlier this month during which Croft discussed his preferences for a violent lawless society with an associate.
Jonker on Tuesday had sentenced Adam Fox, considered to be a leader of the plot with Croft, to 16 years in prison.
“There is need for public understanding of the cost of this kind of wrongdoing and certainly for specific deterrence as well. And there is impact on our overall governmental system, not just physical threat to our sitting governor, it’s the emotional baggage that now our governor will have to carry and that she’s written about in her report,” Jonker said in court before issuing Fox’s prison sentence. .
And, earlier this month, three other men – Pete Musico, Joseph Morrison and Paul Bellar – were all sentenced in state court on charges of gang participation, support of a terrorist act and carrying or possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony, according to to the Michigan attorney general’s office.
Musico and Bellar must serve a minimum of 12 years and seven years, respectively. The alleged “commander” of the group, Morrison – who, according to affidavits filed with the attorney general’s office, went by the online moniker “Boogaloo Bunyan” – must serve a minimum of 11 years.
This story has been updated with additional information.