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Acquitted: Lawyers Speak to Strategy, Outcome of Whitmer Kidnapping Plot Trial

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Daniel Harris was acquitted of all four of his charges in the trial of the kidnapping plot of Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Brandon Caserta was the other man found not guilty and freed.

Monday the attorneys for both men spoke with 9&10 News.

They probably wouldn’t admit it but Julia Kelly and Mike Hills probably knew the deck was stacked against their clients heading into trial, given the public opinion and mountains of evidence brought forward by the government.

They were steadfast they were innocent and that’s why they pushed ahead into trial and that’s why they think 12 jurors agreed with them.

“I think we were able to show them that there was no conspiracy or agreement to do this,” said Kelly.

In the court of public opinion, these four defendants were domestic terrorists plotting to kidnap Governor Whitmer. After a month-long trial, a jury found Harris and Caserta not guilty on all charges. The other two, Adam Fox and Barry Croft, settled on a hung jury.

This came after two original suspects took plea deals, Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks. They admitted to the plot and testified against the other four. For Harris and Caserta, they felt they had nothing to plead to.

“He was adamant and steadfast that he was innocent,” said Kelly of Harris.

“We know that they did not conspire to kidnap the governor. We knew that, so we knew that they were going to have a hard time no matter what they’re trying to do,” said Hills of Caserta.

Kelly set the tone late in the trial by allowing Harris to testify.

“The very first time that I met Daniel, he wanted to tell his side of the story,” said Kelly.

He was the only one to do so and she says it helped win over the jury.

“We knew going in that Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks were going to be saying things that were not true about Daniel,” said Kelly, “He wanted to take it up and tell his side of the story.”

Hills said they were ready to but didn’t have to.

“It was kind of a last minute call but they don’t have it,” said Hills, “So you don’t need to testify in this case.”

Outside of their clients now being free men, Kelly and Hills hope this changes the way investigators handle these cases. The jury said these tactics aren’t acceptable.

“I’m not numb to the FBI’s tactics but if these are the things they do on the regular for these kind of cases it should stop,” said Hills, “Whether it’s entrapment or not it’s just not right what they did in this case.”

That’s at least the message they take away because only the jury knows exactly what evidence and testimony worked. 

“I would love the opportunity to kind of pick their brains and see where they did end up falling,” said Kelly.

It is still to be seen what this means for the state cases. Eight men face similar charges but in Jackson and Antrim Counties. Now that a jury has ruled the plot wasn’t what it seemed to be, can the state expect to get a similar outcome?

The preliminary hearings for the Antrim County defendants are scheduled for August 29. The Jackson County trial is scheduled for October 10.

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