GRAND RAPIDS, MI. — FBI agent Christopher Long used an informant to keep together a “violent” group on the verge of breaking up while an alleged conspiracy to kidnap Michigan’s governor was forming.
Long interfered with the group to keep together a conspiracy that later implicated Barry Croft Jr. of Delaware, who Long said appeared close to separating from the group. Long instructed FBI informant Jennifer Plunk to massage the differences between Croft and the rest of the group in order to keep everyone together.
“Keep working to solve the differences in the group. Try to show them that they were brought together by Croft and he has good ideas, you just have to find common ground. Show them the good ideas Croft brought and say what is workable and what is not. A compromise may be needed on both sides,” Long told Plunk in an August 10 message shared in court on Thursday.
Croft is one of four men on trial for allegedly conspiring to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Alleged coconspirators Brandon Caserta, Adam Fox, and Daniel Harris are also on trial. Two other men, Kaleb Franks and Ty Garbin, have pleaded guilty to the charge.
Croft defense attorney Joshua Blanchard, who is arguing that the FBI entrapped his client, pushed Long about the message Thursday. The FBI agent said he gave the instructions to Plunk after a July 2020 meeting between numerous militia members in Peebles, Ohio.
Blanchard asked Long why the FBI sought to keep Croft in touch with a group of “violent” individuals. Blanchard suggested that letting Croft leave the group would decrease the risk of violence.
Long responded that allowing Croft to leave would make him harder to monitor and raise the likelihood of a “lone wolf attack.”
“The concern was that they were going to have a lone wolf attack, and we weren’t going to have access to specific individuals,” Long said. “The entire group was violent. Mr. Croft was violent, as well.”
Long went on to say that Croft was sensitive to being shut out, and if he left the group, Plunk would have trouble getting close to him again if she appeared to side with the rest of the group.
The trial into the conspiracy to kidnap Whitmer resumed on Thursday after taking off Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday over a “key figure” in the trial testing positive for COVID-19. Thursday was the fourth full day of testimony since the trial began last week.
Later on Thursday, Long was dismissed, and FBI special agent Mark Schweers took the stand. Schweers participated in the investigation into the conspiracy by posing as a “like-minded” militiaman who went by the name of Mark Woods. Schweers was assigned to primarily investigating Fox. Schweers recorded a number of conversations between himself and Fox and others.
Schweers met Fox in the basement of the Vac Shack, a business in the greater Grand Rapids area where Fox had been living at the time. Schweers spoke with Fox in the basement of the Vac Shack where Fox’s living quarters were. Schweers testified that Fox had smoked marijuana and detailed plans to take lawmakers hostage and “restore constitutional government,” as Fox said in one recording.
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