Adam Fox, the homeless man the feds framed as the "ringleader" of the FBI-led plot to "kidnap" Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, was sentenced to 16 years in prison on Tuesday.
The feds were asking for Fox to be given a life sentence but the judge -- despite being totally biased in favor of the prosecution -- seems to have been uncomfortable with giving him life in prison just for political gain.
From The Detroit Free Press, "Whitmer kidnap plot leader Adam Fox spared life sentence, gets 16 years":
More than two years after his arrest, Adam Fox was sentenced Tuesday to 16 years in prison for plotting the kidnap of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in what the government has described as one of the biggest domestic terrorism cases in recent American history.Gibbons said back in July that it was ridiculous to claim "a homeless man living in the basement of a vacuum repair shop without a working toilet was the leader of a domestic terrorist cell with a 'kill squad' at his command preparing to storm the home of a sitting governor."
The government had sought a life sentence for Fox, arguing he was part of a violent extremism movement that sought not only to kidnap the governor, but to spark a civil uprising.
But U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker in Grand Rapids gave 39-year-old Fox the mercy he was looking for as his lawyer, Christopher Gibbons, had long argued against a life sentence. Gibbons maintained Fox was a follower, not a leader, and looked up to FBI informants and undercover agents who cased Whitmer's vacation home alongside Fox, and accompanied him and others during training sessions.
"(T)he Government … employs exaggerated language to create the false narrative of a terrifying paramilitary leader," Gibbons argued in court documents. "Adam Fox is described as creating an army with a cadre of operators. … These histrionic descriptions of Adam Fox do not rationally address his actual conduct and they do not accurately reflect either his actual intentions or his actual capabilities.
"Adam Fox was an unemployed vacuum repairman who was venting his frustrations on social media but abiding by the laws of the State of Michigan," Gibbons argued. " Adam Fox is not the leader of a multistate 'army' of domestic terrorists."
U.S. Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Nils Kessler argued otherwise, calling Fox a "willing and able operations leader."
American Greatness's Julie Kelly has more:
The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan sought a life sentence for Fox, arguing his conduct amounted to an act of domestic terrorism. In the government's sentencing memorandum, prosecutors compared Fox to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon attack in 2013. Prosecutors also cited the "insurrection" on January 6, 2021 as a consequence of the kidnapping plot. "As the public became aware after January 2020 [sic], Fox's plot was a harbinger of more widespread anti-government militia extremism," assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler wrote.Kelly said the judge's bias will likely help Fox on appeal.
But Jonker said a life sentence was too excessive. "Something less than that gets the job done." Jonker also sentenced Fox to five years probation and ordered him to undergo drug rehab.
Fox and his co-defendant, Barry Croft, Jr., received a hung jury at the government's first trial in April 2022. Two other men were acquitted after defense attorneys presented a detailed case of FBI entrapment. Fox and Croft faced a second trial in August 2022; both were convicted thanks to Jonker's heavy-handed approach on behalf of the government the second time around and questions about a juror's prejudicial statements to co-workers before jury selection. (Croft's sentencing is Wednesday morning.)
At least a dozen FBI informants working with FBI handlers and undercover agents out of numerous FBI field offices engineered the hoax in 2020. Dan Chappel, a contract truck driver for the Postal Service, was hired as the key informant in March 2020; he primarily led the effort to stitch the random group of outliers together. The FBI compensated Chappel roughly $60,000 in cash and personal items, a sum Chappel admitted at trial had exceeded his annual salary.
Chappel particularly fixated on Fox, who lived alone at the time in the dilapidated cellar of a vacuum repair shop without running water, exchanging thousands of text messages and phone calls over a six month period. Chappel and other informants organized "militia" meetings, field training exercises, and reconnaissance trips to Whitmer's remote summer cottage, the alleged scene of the crime. (Whitmer knew about the plan months before; the FBI installed pole cameras around her property to collect evidence.)
On several occasions, Chappel offered Fox a $5,000 credit card to use to purchase gear and weapons; a destitute Fox refused each offer. Chappel created two encrypted chat groups, monitored in real time by the FBI, to foment secret discussions about a possible kidnapping attempt.
The case, however, is rife with scandal. One of the chief FBI investigators on the case, Richard Trask, was fired by the FBI last year after he was arrested for assaulting his wife in a drunken rage following a swinger's party. Local reporters also discovered several anti-Trump posts on Trask's social media accounts.
Chappel's handlers were also removed from the federal case amid accusations of perjury and moonlighting. Stephen Robeson, a convicted felon and longtime FBI informant who held a "national militia" meeting in Ohio in June 2020 to lure the targets into the trap, was accused of committing at least two other crimes while working the caper. He notified the court of his intent to plead the Fifth if called to testify for the defense; Jonker refused to compel his testimony.
FBI informants admittedly broke bureau rules; one female informant shared a hotel room with her male target. Informants also got drunk and stoned with their targets while recording impaired conversations for evidence. Chappel, in violation of FBI protocol, was sworn in as the commanding officer of an imaginary militia invented by the FBI.
Despite extensive evidence, Jonker dismissed accusations the plot was an FBI entrapment operation. "This is what law enforcement is supposed to do," Jonker said Tuesday morning before announcing Fox's sentence. "I don't see anything on the entrapment front. In my mind, law enforcement deserves a pat on the back." He claimed the FBI informants "pulled the plug early" and commended the agency for its "careful monitoring from beginning to end."
He also compared the kidnapping ring to ISIS.
[...] Jonker also refused to dismiss a juror who reportedly told co-workers he hoped to serve on the Whitmer jury so he could "hang" the defendants. The judge held a private meeting with the juror on the second day of the trial and concluded the allegations were not supported. Before the verdict was announced on August 23, the same juror contacted relatives to reveal a verdict had been reached in violation of court rules.
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