A man convicted of a key role in the conspiracy to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was sentenced Wednesday to 19 1/2 years in prison, more than was awarded to a co-defendant.
A prosecutor called 47-year-old Barry Croft Jr. an American version of Omar Abdel-Rahman, “the blind sheikh” who directed 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 conspiring to commit a kidnapping and using a weapon of mass destruction to attack Whitmer, who drew hatred from far-right groups for her efforts to stem the spread of Covid in 2020.
Fox was sentenced Tuesday to 192 months (16 years) in prison by US District Judge Robert Jonker, setting the stage in a Grand Rapids courtroom for Croft’s fate and his 235-month sentence.
While Jonker did not hand down the life sentence prosecutors sought, the judge broadly agreed with the government’s stance that Croft had fueled the conspiracy with dangerous rhetoric.
The judge called Croft the “idea guy” who incited co-conspirators with “false” and “twisted” ideology.
“I think Mr. Croft is the more serious culprit…even more so than Mr. Fox,” Jonker said. “I think he was the person who gave Mr. Fox something to hold on to.”
Assistant US Attorney Nils Kessler said Croft needed to be away for an extended period to protect the public.
“This man is radicalized through and through,” Kessler said. “He hasn’t changed his perspective.”
Kessler said Croft is just as dangerous as a foreign terrorist trying to harm Americans.
“He’s the spiritual leader of this group, this movement, just as a sheikh of ISIS or al Qaeda could be,” Kessler said. “And they don’t have to be tactical or someone who’s the best guy with a gun on the battlefield — he was the idea generator.”
Defense attorney Josh Blanchard implored Jonker to look at his client’s long history of mental illness and substance abuse. The attorney appeared to suppress his emotions as he described Croft’s unstable childhood.
“His mother had bipolar disorder that was so severe and unresolved that it required her to pay Social Security,” Blanchard said.
“His father, who has been described as cold and distant, puts aluminum foil on the ceiling of his bedroom to keep aliens from reaching his brainwaves. I say all this to say that Mr. Croft had to intervene.”
A jury failed to reach a verdict against Fox and Croft in April, forcing a judge to declare mistrial before a second trial proved decisive.
Whitmer, who won re-election last month, has been at the center of far-right anger in 2020 as she imposed various lockdowns to curb the spread of Covid.
Then-President Donald Trump appeared to support this opposition in a capitalized tweet.
A Whitmer representative said Wednesday the governor had no comment beyond a statement she made in sentencing Croft and Fox, insisting that conspiracies “against officials and threats against the FBI are a disturbing extension of the radicalized domestic… terrorism festering in our nation that threaten the very foundation of our republic.”
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