Marijuana smoking hangs over Whitmer kidnap plot trial
There is no dispute about some evidence in the trial of two men accused of eagerly wanting to kidnap Michigan’s governor: They enjoyed getting high.
From start to finish, the jury repeatedly has heard about marijuana in the case of Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr., who are charged with conspiring to abduct Gretchen Whitmer as part of an anti-government uprising in 2020.
It has been cited by defense lawyers to reinforce their depiction of Fox and Croft as “big talkers” who sometimes said outrageous things when they had been smoking pot. Marijuana use by adults has been legal in Michigan since 2018.
A jury in Grand Rapids, Michigan, will hear closing arguments Monday, when defense lawyers will likely talk about it again.
Defense attorney Joshua Blanchard set the tone soon after jurors settled into the box on Aug. 10, saying Croft was “frankly high on marijuana all the time” and was described by some as a “stoner pirate kind-of whack nut” in a tri-cornered colonial hat.
The Delaware trucker’s girlfriend confirmed Croft’s regular marijuana use during her brief appearance in the witness chair. An investigator was asked Friday to read aloud a text message he had sent to an informant who was inside the group of extremists.
“Too much pot,” John Penrod of the Delaware state police said.
Prosecutors have presented evidence of Fox saying he wanted to “hog-tie” Whitmer and even take her out to Lake Michigan in a boat. Croft wrote on social media about hanging governors for treason.
Their attorneys are arguing entrapment by government agents, not some type of diminished capacity defense. But Henry Scharg, a Detroit-area lawyer, said references to marijuana can be an effort to show a jury that their judgments were very cloudy.
“You’re in an altered state. When you say things, you don’t really mean it,” said Scharg, who’s not involved in the trial. “I don’t think it’s a really strong defense, but sometimes you’re looking for a juror as a holdout, something to rest their position on. Throw it out. Maybe the fish will bite.”
Indeed, this is the second trial for Fox and Croft after a jury in April couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict. Two other men were acquitted, while two more pleaded guilty and testified for the government.
Fox’s attorney, too, has referred to marijuana when questioning witnesses about key moments in 2020.
Dan Chappel, the most important FBI informant in the case, recalled how he and Fox drove to Elk Rapids, Michigan, to scout Whitmer’s lakeside vacation home. He said Fox smoked marijuana throughout the day, even sharing with a stranger while assessing things at a Birch Lake boat launch.
“Adam Fox routinely smoked marijuana in your presence, true? At almost every meeting you were at, correct?” Christopher Gibbons asked.
“He did smoke, yes,” Chappel replied.
Croft, 46, is from Bear, Delaware. Fox, 39, was living in the basement of a vacuum shop in the Grand Rapids area.
Prosecutors haven’t made much of their drug habits. Mark Schweers, an undercover FBI agent who posed as a like-minded rebel, said marijuana was smoked when he met with Fox and members of a paramilitary group.
“Did you use marijuana?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher O’Connor asked.
“That would not be permitted,” said Schweers, who drank beer instead.
Find the AP’s full coverage of the kidnapping plot trial: https://apnews.com/hub/whitmer-kidnap-plot-trial
Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwritez