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Trial begins in alleged plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer

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Jurors are being selected Tuesday for the trial of four men charged with plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Prosecutors say the men were angry over the Democratic governor's pandemic restrictions and that they will present secret recordings and other evidence, including that the men surveilled Whitmer's vacation home and trained with weapons and explosives. Defense attorneys say the men deny any conspiracy to kidnap Whitmer, and have signaled an entrapment defense, criticizing the government's use of undercover FBI agents and confidential informants. The trial is being held in federal court in Grand Rapids. Several prospective jurors said they weren't sure they could be impartial. Others were dismissed from the trial, which could take more than a month, due to job or home conflicts. "How often does somebody get charged for attempting or conspiring to kidnap a governor? It just doesn't happen. So, because of that significance, it's a huge case," said Matthew Schneider, a former U.S. attorney in Detroit who attended the first day of the trial as an observer. In 2020, Whitmer was trading taunts with then-President Donald Trump over his administration's response to COVID-19. Her critics, meanwhile, were regularly protesting at the Michigan Capitol, clogging streets around the statehouse and legally carrying semi-automatic rifles into the building. During that turbulent time, when stay-home orders were in place and the economy was restricted, prosecutors say Adam Fox, Brandon Caserta, Barry Croft Jr. and Daniel Harris were coming up with a plot to snatch Whitmer. They're accused of taking critical steps over several months, including secret messaging, gun drills in the woods and a night drive to northern Michigan to scout her second home and figure out how to blow up a bridge. The FBI, which had infiltrated the group, said it thwarted the plan with the arrests of six men in October 2020. Two of them, Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks, have pleaded guilty and will appear as crucial witnesses for the government, giving jurors an inside view of what was planned. Whitmer, who is seeking reelection this year, rarely talks publicly about the case and isn't expected to attend the trial.

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