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Convicted leader of plot to kidnap Michigan governor sentenced to 16 years in federal prison

<i>Kent County Jail/AP</i><br/>A Michigan federal judge sentenced Adam Fox of plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to 16 years in prison Tuesday.
Kent County Jail/AP
A Michigan federal judge sentenced Adam Fox of plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to 16 years in prison Tuesday.

By Lauren del Valle, CNN

A Michigan federal judge sentenced a man convicted of plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to 16 years in prison Tuesday.

Prosecutors said that Adam Fox was the leader of a plot to kidnap the Democratic governor from her summer home in 2020.

A jury convicted Fox and an accomplice in August on charges of kidnapping conspiracy and conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction.

“There is need for public understanding of the cost of this kind of wrongdoing and certainly for specific deterrence as well. And there is impact on our overall governmental system, not just physical threat to our sitting governor, it’s the emotional baggage that now our governor will have to carry and that she’s written about in her report,” Judge Robert Jonker said in court before issuing Fox’s prison sentence Tuesday.

He added, “And beyond that, it does affect not just the willingness and eagerness of our own governor to continue in office but undoubtedly affects other people who are either in public office or are considering public office.”

Prosecutors asked the judge to sentence Fox to life in prison — the maximum sentence per federal guidelines for his convictions.

“You could fairly say that none of this would have happened if Mr. Fox had not been involved,” prosecutor Nils Kessler said in court Tuesday.

Jonker said in court that a sentence of life in prison is not necessary to serve as a deterrent to potential violence against public officials.

“By advising a term of life in prison applies here, sends a clear message of just how serious a sentence is warranted for Fox. Public officials should never have to worry for their safety, or the security of their families, because of the hard decisions their jobs require. If our elected leaders must live in fear, our representative government suffers,” prosecutors said in a sentencing memo.

Fox’s defense attorney Christopher Gibbons told the judge Tuesday that the prosecution “overstates the reality of the conduct that has been alleged and what was actually accomplished by Adam Fox in the summer of 2020.”

Fox declined to speak on his own behalf at his sentencing hearing. “I’m satisfied with what my lawyer said,” Fox told the judge.

In a sentencing memo, Gibbons asked the court to sentence Fox to roughly four to six years in prison, what he said is aligned with the prison sentences issued for co-defendants who pleaded guilty ahead of trial and were awarded lower sentences for cooperating against Fox and others.

The defense attorneys have consistently maintained an entrapment defense, arguing that the FBI coerced the defendants to drive the plot forward through a collection of undercover agents and confidential informants.

Prosecutors batted down that argument in court, however, noting that Fox has not expressed any remorse. “This defendant is going to go into jail and probably emerge more radicalized than when he went in and will remain a danger to the public,” Kessler said.

Jonker recommended substance abuse and mental health assessments and treatment for Fox.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel hailed the sentencing decision as “a clear message that domestic terrorism will not be tolerated.”

“Adam Fox’s actions undermined the security of every Michigan resident. I remain deeply grateful to Judge Jonker, the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI, the Michigan State Police and every person who worked together to ensure justice was served,” Nessel said Tuesday.

Another person involved in the plot, Barry Croft, is set for sentencing Wednesday. Croft was a part of the plan with Fox and the others, and practiced detonating explosives in preparation, prosecutors said at the trial.

Additionally, earlier this month, three other men involved in the plot — Pete Musico, Joseph Morrison and Paul Bellar — were all sentenced on charges of gang participation, support of a terrorist act and carrying or possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony, according to the Michigan attorney general’s office.

Musico and Bellar must serve a minimum of 12 years and seven years, respectively. The alleged “commander” of the group, Morrison — who, according to affidavits filed with the attorney general’s office, went by the online moniker “Boogaloo Bunyan” online — must serve a minimum of 11 years.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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