A man convicted in a plot to abduct Michigan’s Democratic governor from her vacation home was sentenced on Tuesday to 16 years in federal prison, the longest so far for any of the defendants convicted in federal court in one of the country’s most closely watched domestic terrorism cases.
At two trials earlier this year, prosecutors repeatedly showed recordings and online posts in which the defendant, Adam Fox, called Gov. Gretchen Whitmer a “tyrant,” railed against her Covid-19 restrictions, and mused about a second American revolution. Prosecutors described him as a threat to the governor’s safety and to democracy itself.
“This is an incredibly serious activity, and there’s no doubt about that in mind,” Judge Robert J. Jonker of the Federal District Court in Western Michigan said as he handed down the sentence, which was far lower than the life term that prosecutors sought.
Federal prosecutors said Mr. Fox, who lived in the basement of a vacuum shop where he had worked, was a leader of the sprawling plot to take Ms. Whitmer from her vacation home in northern Michigan in 2020. Mr. Fox, an adherent of the so-called Boogaloo movement, which seeks to overthrow the American government, attended training sessions with heavy weaponry and went on scouting missions to that home in the months before his arrest.
“The conspirators might easily have killed the governor in a botched kidnapping, killed unsuspecting law enforcement during a traffic stop or other unexpected encounter, or blown up innocent bystanders with a negligently constructed bomb,” federal prosecutors said in a sentencing memo, in which they asked Judge Jonker to impose a life sentence.
At trial, Mr. Fox’s lawyer, Christopher Gibbons, described his client as an unimpressive dupe who talked a big game but had no real chance of pulling off an attack. Mr. Gibbons said undercover FBI agents preyed on Mr. Fox, pretending to be his friend and luring him into a plot he was incapable of planning himself. In arguing for a lesser sentence, Mr. Gibbons wrote that prosecutors used “exaggerated language to create the false narrative of a terrifying paramilitary leader.”
Two men who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and testified against Fox and Croft received substantial breaks: Ty Garbin is already free after a 2 ½-year prison term, while Kaleb Franks was given a four-year sentence.
In state court, three men recently were given lengthy sentences for assisting Fox earlier in the summer of 2020. Five more are awaiting trial in Antrim County, where Whitmer’s vacation home is located.
When the plot was extinguished, Whitmer blamed then-President Donald Trump, saying he had given “comfort to those who spread fear and hatred and division.” In August, 19 months after leaving office, Trump said the kidnapping plan was a “fake deal.”