The leader of a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer should not be sentenced to life in prison because federal prosecutors overstated his role in the plot and have created a “false narrative of a terrifying para-military leader," his attorney argues.
Attorney Christopher Gibbons said in his sentencing memorandum filed late Friday for Adam Fox that the government had employed “histrionic descriptions" of Fox to overstate “his actual intentions or his actual capabilities."
The filing in federal court in Grand Rapids, Michigan, came after prosecutors told the court Monday in their sentencing recommendation that a life prison sentence would be justified for Fox, saying his goal in the 2020 kidnapping plot was a forerunner of rampant anti-government extremism.
Fox and co-defendant Barry Croft Jr. were convicted in August of conspiring to kidnap Whitmer. They were also found guilty of conspiring to obtain a weapon of mass destruction.
The FBI broke up the kidnapping plot with arrests in October 2020. Evidence showed that Fox and others trained with guns inside crudely built “shoot houses” in Wisconsin and Michigan and made trips to Elk Rapids, Michigan, to scout Whitmer’s vacation home. The strategy included blowing up a bridge to slow down police officers responding to an abduction, according to trial evidence.
But Gibbons said in Friday's filing that “in this case there was no bomb whatsoever" and that no funds “to pay for the `bomb'” were provided to an FBI agent who was working undercover and had fooled the group into believing he knew someone in the mining industry who could get high-grade explosives.
He said that prosecutors' sentencing “memorandum employs exaggerated language to create the false narrative of a terrifying para-military leader."
“Adam Fox is described as creating an army with a cadre of operators. For example, Adam Fox’s conduct is compared to Timothy McVeigh who committed an actual bombing that killed 168 people, 19 of whom were children," Gibbons wrote.
“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."
At trial, Gibbons portrayed Fox as hapless and virtually homeless, a man with a loud, vile mouth who was living in the basement of a Grand Rapids-area vacuum shop. He repeated that description in Friday's filing, calling his client “an unemployed vacuum repairman who was venting his frustrations on social media but abiding by the laws of the State of Michigan."
U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker is scheduled to sentence Fox on Dec. 27. Croft, a trucker from Bear, Delaware, will be sentenced on Dec. 28. Two more men pleaded guilty to the kidnapping conspiracy and testified against Fox and Croft, while two other men were acquitted last spring.
In October, in state court, three members of a paramilitary group called the Wolverine Watchmen were convicted of providing support for Fox.