Marijuana smoking weighs on Whitmer kidnapping conspiracy trial

There’s no doubt about some of the evidence in the trial of two men accused of eagerly wanting to kidnap the governor of Michigan: They liked to get high.

From start to finish, the jury heard repeatedly about marijuana in the case of Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr., who are charged with conspiracy to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer as part of an anti-government uprising in 2020.

He was cited by defense attorneys to bolster their description of Fox and Croft as “big talkers” who sometimes said outrageous things while smoking weed. Marijuana use by adults has been legal in Michigan since 2018.

A jury in Grand Rapids, Michigan, will hear closing arguments on Monday, when defense attorneys are likely to hear it again.

Defense attorney Joshua Blanchard set the tone shortly after jurors settled into the box on August 10, saying Croft was “frankly high on marijuana all the time” and was described by some as a “crazy stoner pirate” in a wedged Colonial tri-hat.

The Delaware trucker’s girlfriend confirmed Croft’s regular marijuana use during his brief appearance in the witness chair. An investigator was asked on Friday to read aloud a text message he had sent to an informant inside the extremist group.

“Too much pot,” said John Penrod of the Delaware State Police.

Prosecutors presented evidence that Fox wanted to “tie up” Whitmer and even take her out on Lake Michigan in a boat. Croft wrote on social media about the Governors hanging for treason.

Their attorneys are arguing entrapment by government agents, not some type of defense of diminished capacity. But Henry Scharg, a Detroit-area attorney, said the marijuana references may be an effort to show a jury that their judgments were very unclear.

“You are in an altered state. When you say things, you don’t really mean it,” said Scharg, who is not involved in the lawsuit. “I don’t think it’s a really solid defense, but sometimes you’re looking for a juror like a resister, something to base their position on. Throw it away. Maybe the fish will bite.

Indeed, this is the second trial for Fox and Croft after a jury in April failed to reach a unanimous verdict. Two other men were acquitted, while two others pleaded guilty and testified for the government.

Fox’s attorney also referenced marijuana when questioning witnesses about key moments in 2020.

Dan Chappel, the FBI’s top informant in the case, recalled how he and Fox traveled 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 regularly smoked marijuana in your presence, is that true? At almost every meeting you were at, right?” asked Christopher Gibbons.

“He smoked, yes,” Chappel replied.

Croft, 46, is from Bear, Delaware. Fox, 39, lived in the basement of a vacuum cleaner in the Grand Rapids area.

Prosecutors didn’t make much of their drug habits. Mark Schweers, an undercover FBI agent who posed as a like-minded rebel, said marijuana was smoked when he encountered Fox and members of a paramilitary group.

“Have you used marijuana?” asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher O’Connor.

“That wouldn’t be allowed,” said Schweers, who drank beer instead.

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