NewsWhitmer Kidnapping Plot


Attorney weighs in on verdict for Whitmer kidnap plot trial

Posted at 10:59 PM, Apr 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-08 23:33:54-04

(WXYZ) — The verdict is in, and two of the men who were accused of being involved in the plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer are now free.

Brandon Caserta of Canton and Daniel Harris of Lake Orion were both found not guilty on all charges they faced. Meanwhile, the jury came up with no verdict against Adam Fox and Barry Croft, who remain in custody.

"My initial reaction was congratulations to the defense attorneys, they did a heck of a job,” said local defense attorney Michael Rataj, who specializes in federal cases. “As this case progressed in the last few months, everyone had these guys guilty."

The trial, which took place in Grand Rapids, lasted roughly a month. Jurors deliberated all week long before coming up with their decision.

“You also have to take into consideration that people from that side of the State are not big Gretchen Whitmer fans," Rataj said. "Although she did carry Kent County, a lot of these people (jurors) came from outside of Kent County from rural areas. And a lot of these people have distrust of the government.”

Just 18 months ago, officers in tactical gear surrounded the Harris family's Lake Orion home prepared with a battering ram for an all-out raid. The scene Friday was a much quieter scene. "No Trespassing" and "Private Property" signs were nailed to the trees.

After the not guilty verdict, Harris's parents left the courthouse saying very little, along with the family of Brandon Caserta who was also found not guilty on all charges.

"I'm very surprised,” said Tim Everett, a former neighbor of Brandon Caserta. “I'm really surprised and now I'm kind of concerned.”

Everett lives in the same Canton apartment complex where Caserta lived in 2020. He says he didn't know Caserta well, but he was home the night Caserta’s apartment was raided in the fall of 2020.

“It was really a scary night,” Everett said. “I started seeing State Police cars, an FBI van... The whole part of the complex over here was full of law enforcement.”

Rataj says since no verdict was reached for Croft and Fox, their cases likely will head to a retrial. They currently remain in custody.

"The government's going to do a reboot. They’re going to look at their case but they’re stuck with the witnesses they used," Rataj explained. "They’re stuck with the undercovers they used and clearly those guys were questionable character."

However, Rataj added that retrials tend to go the Government's way.

“As a general proposition, retrials generally inert to the benefit of the government, just generally speaking," Rataj said. "That doesn't mean it’s going to happen in this case, but as a general proposition retrials do go to the government.”

Two other men accused of being involved with the plot, Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks, already took plea deals in the case.

"It’s really hard to set aside a guilty plea in federal court,” Rataj said. "If I were those two defendants who have since pled and obviously cooperated with the government, they’re probably kicking themselves right now as we sit here today.”