Adam Fox was a broke, vulnerable stoner who just wanted to make friends in the summer of 2020, but instead fell under the spell of conniving federal agents and informants who set him up in a fake plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, his lawyer argued Friday.
“Adam Fox wanted to please. He was looking for connections,” defense attorney Christopher Gibbons told jurors in his closing statements Friday, stressing repeatedly: “Adam Fox is not the leader the government wants him to be. He never became a leader.. .because he isn’t a leader. He didn’t have the skills.
But what he did have, Gibbons argued, was the “love and affection” of a man he knew as Big Dan – the one-time Wolverine Watchmen who left the militia group in the spring of 2020 and became an undercover informant for the FBI.
Dan testified at trial, telling the jury he left the Wolverine Watchmen out of concern the group was planning to kill police officers.
Gibbons urged the jury to believe none of that, alleging that Dan was a bought-and-paid for informant who made $4,000 from the government trying to radicalize Fox with the help of his FBI handler.
“That’s unacceptable in America,” Gibbons argued. “That’s not how it works. We don’t make terrorists so we can arrest them.”
Gibbons argued that his client was impressionable and the government knew it as it sought to curry favor with him and get him to do things he wouldn’t otherwise.
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For example, Gibbons said that Dan offered Fox a free credit card to use as he pleases, with $5,000 on it. He offered this credit card five times, though Fox never took it, even though he was living in a basement with no running water, no toilet, and had to brush his teeth at a Mexican restaurant.
“He was broke as a joke all summer,” Gibbons said. “But he never took that credit card.”
Gibbons also vented to the jury, noting he was cut off during the trial by the judge, who wouldn’t let him further question Dan the informant about the credit card he allegedly offered Fox. There was brief testimony about the credit card, though when Gibbons tried the press the issue, the prosecution objected and the judge told him to move on.
“You just a got a sliver” of what really happened,” Gibbons told the jury, arguing the government took advantage of his client and painted him out to be someone he wasn’t.
Gibbons accused the FBI of “building up a vulnerable man with a fake militia,” telling the jury the FBI set up Fox with “free money, free bombs” and planting the idea of explosives into his mind and the others.
“The need for explosives was manufactured by the government,” Gibbons argued.
Gibbons has long argued that Fox and his co-defendants were merely tough talkers who enjoyed fantasy play, and vented their frustration with the government by holding pretend exercises.
Gibbons scoffed at the prosecutor’s claims that this was a real plan, carried about by heavily armed men who had the will and the skills to make it happen.
“How real was any of this?” Gibbons said, noting that Fox was living in the basement of a vacuum shop, and had business cards made that he would set out at the counter of the Vac Shack.
This was not a sophisticated business operation, Gibbons argued, questioning the idea of having people come in the store shopping for vacuum bags, and Fox asking them: “Hey, you wanna train with us?”
It wasn’t realistic or doable, Gibbons argued. It was all pretend.
“There’s no agreement,” Gibbons said. “There’s no crime here.”
As for a conspiracy, he said:
“A person cannot accidentally enter into a conspiracy,” Gibbons said. “I could say I hate the government. And someone else can say I hate the government. Have we just conspired to hate the government? I hope it takes more than that.”
Gibbons blamed Big Dan and an FBI agent named Jayson Chambers for allegedly creating the kidnapping plan. Chambers was Big Dan’s handler, and communicated with the informant frequently about what was happening inside the Wolverine Watchmen.
Gibbons asked the jury to consider a text that Big Dan once sent his supervisor agent: “If you need it to happen, I make it happen.”
“That’s manipulation,” Gibbons told the jury.
During the trial, however, Dan the informant explained to the jury that the ‘I can make it happen’ comment was about him being able to get time off of work so that he could attend a meeting that the group had planned.
Gibbons said Fox was driven by “Big Dan” the informant to make trips to Elk Rapids for surveillance of the governor’s vacation home. Dan and Chambers orchestrated whatever they could put Fox in the orbit of others with similar anti-government views, but Fox was never serious about any plans to kidnap Whitmer, the attorney argued.
“The greatest threat to the governor is the government,” Gibbons said. “It’s not my client, it’s not Brandon Caserta, it’s Jayson Chambers and his weapon, Dan.”
Gibbons showed the jury texts between Chambers and Dan where the agent asked Dan to start “bugging” Fox to plan a daytime reconnaissance trip to the governor’s home near Traverse City. In the trial, the jury saw clips and photos from the Aug. 29 trip, including a photo of Fox using his hat to get a better view of the home from across a lake.
“Why on earth, why if people are motivated to do things, why would you have to bug them to do things,” Gibbons argued.
Gibbons also questioned previous of Dan, who said Adam and another man, nicknamed “Barricade,” testimony smoked marijuana frequently on the day of the recon trip — five times in total.
“How much marijuana does it take to use your hat as binoculars,” Gibbons said. “This case is steeped in marijuana smoke … These agents took advantage of Adam’s substance abuse. It’s not right. It’s just not right.”
He pointed out screenshots of chat exchanges made in October 2020 – around a week before the men were arrested of Fox excitedly sharing news of a Michigan Supreme Court ruling against Whitmer’s executive orders on COVID-19 restrictions. Fox asked “who’s down” to make a citizen’s arrest of Whitmer.
Gibbons asked, why would Fox ask who’s down if a conspiracy had already been launched?
Gibbons implored the jury to send a message to the federal government — if these men are found guilty, the government will continue to prosecute people for their talk by having agents push them in plots.
“You guys are our last chance,” he said. “You are the firewall … these facts show Adam Fox is not a leader, he’s a shill for the government.”
Closing arguments continue.
Tresa Baldas: email@example.com