GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — One of the men convicted of plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will spend 16 years in a federal prison. Adam Fox was sentenced by Judge Robert Jonker on Tuesday morning at the federal courthouse in Grand Rapids. In addition to the 192 months in prison, the judge imposed five years of supervised release, $2,000 in fines and fees and ordered Fox to participate in a substance abuse recovery program.
“This is incredibly serious activity and there is no doubt about that in my mind,” Jonker said. The judge said Whitmer will have to bear the trauma of the plot and it will weigh on other government officials as they consider their careers. “That does need a forceful sentence from the court,” Jonker said.
Investigators say Fox, of metro Grand Rapids, and another man, Barry Croft Jr. of Delaware, led a militia that planned to kidnap Whitmer. In court, prosecutors presented evidence that the men intended to snatch her from her vacation home near Elk Rapids and blow up bridges to slow down the police chasing them. Investigators say the men held training exercises and tried to buy explosives for the kidnapping — though the sellers were actually undercover FBI agents. The plot was busted in October 2020.
Federal prosecutors had argued Fox should be sentenced to life in prison under a terrorism enhancement that they said was appropriate because he planned to blow up bridges. They also said that his sentence should be severe because the victim in the case is a government official and because Fox was a leader in the plot. “… Mr. Fox was really the driving force,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler said. “I think it’s fair to say that none of this would have happened if Mr. Fox had not been involved.”
He said Fox was an active recruiter and told others he would lead by example. Kessler referenced all of the preparation the group did, including training at a “kill house” they built. He condemned Fox’s motive for the alleged kidnapping, saying he wanted to start a revolution or “second Civil War.” He recognized the “outrageous” nature of the plot, but said that the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was evidence that Fox was not alone in his line of thinking. Kessler said that Fox’s sentence should serve as an example for others who might be considering similar plans. Kessler called Fox remorseless, adding that Fox was “smirking” at him in the courtroom as he went through his sentencing arguments.
Defense attorneys disagreed with a life sentence, saying Fox and his group would never have been able to actually kidnap the governor. Fox’s attorney Christopher Gibbons spoke only briefly at sentencing, saying that prosecutors were overstating Fox’s role. Asked by the judge if he would like to make a statement, Fox said only that he was satisfied with what his lawyer had put forth. Whitmer did not attend the hearing, nor did she send a statement to be read aloud in open court.
Jonker agreed with prosecutors that Fox was in a leadership role and that the plot was clearly defined, had a clear target and had a deadline. He also made it clear he disagreed with the defense’s argument that Fox and his group were entrapped by FBI agents, saying he saw criminal intent from the defendants. “We can all be thankful they (the FBI agents) were there early,” Jonker said. But Jonker said that while the case was serious, he did not think a life sentence was necessary to serve as a deterrent.
Two of the conspirators pleaded guilty and two other co-defendants were acquitted in the spring. The spring jury deadlocked on Fox and Croft; they were retried and convicted in August. Sentencing for Croft — described by Kessler as the “ideas guy” of the conspiracy — is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday.