We recently discussed the collapse of the Whitmer kidnapping case after a jury acquitted defendants in Michigan. Now, one of the lead prosecutors is leaving the case, according to a motion filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Roth. That adds questions about how the case will move forward after the earlier loss.
Shortly before the 2020 election, Gov. Whitmer stood before cameras describing her narrow escape from being kidnapped and murdered by “domestic terrorists.” Despite the fact that the Justice Department in the Trump Administration made these arrests, Whitmer blamed former president Donald Trump. President Biden agreed that Trump was fostering a “civil war.”
The media went into a frenzy, declaring that the case proved that “Trump’s rhetoric and policies have unleashed a second pandemic in the form of far-right domestic terrorism.”
The problem is that the case — and the narrative — quickly fell apart after the election. A Michigan jury recently acquitted Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta and hanged on the verdicts against Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. Fox is portrayed as a ringleader of the group and leader of the conspiracy.
While Fox and Croft can be retried, the acquittal raises an additional challenge. Harris and Caserta may feel fewer inhibitions in testifying. With the exception of perjury, they can safely take the stand to discuss their actions — and more importantly, the actions of the government.
The Michigan case stands as one of the most chilling examples of entrapment techniques used by the FBI. While Whitmer declared Trump “complicit” in her planned execution, the FBI increasingly appeared more “complicit” in the creation of a government-inspired, government-funded, and largely government-staffed plot.
The problem was that these guys seemed at points more interested in partying than conspiring. The FBI, therefore, decided to take control and get them serious about some major crimes. An informant known as “Big Dan” was paid over $50,000 to get the conspiracy going, including paying for the defendants to travel to Wisconsin to “train.”
Special Agent Jayson Chambers pushed Big Dan to get the men to take violent acts against Whitmer. The defendants reportedly resisted those entreaties. Dan pushed the alleged leader to fire a round into the window of Whitmer’s home and mail the casing to the news media. On Sept. 5, 2020, Chambers texted to remind Dan “Mission is to kill the governor specifically.“
The Whitmer conspiracy was a production written, funded, and largely populated by FBI agents and informants. At every point, FBI literally drove the conspirators and controlled their actions. In the end, a majority of the “conspirators” were actually FBI agents or informants.
As discussed earlier, various key FBI agents and informants were removed from the case due to their own legal problems.
Now, Roth is pulling out. That will create a vacuum in the second trial. Retrials often allow prosecutors to better prepare for defense arguments. Yet, it has lost one of the prosecutor most experienced in the case.
Politically, it would be highly damaging for both Biden and Whitmer to have the case dropped. The question is whether the reduction of the defendants and the change in the prosecution team will change the prospect for convictions. It could work for the defense if the two acquitted parties are more active in the case. Conversely, focusing on the alleged leader could strengthen the optics for the jury by eliminating marginal figures.
There could also be a more generous plea deal offered to the defense to avoid the threat of acquittal. It is notable to see a lead prosecutor bow out in such a high-profile case. Whether this indicates other significant changes in the case will likely become clear in the coming days.