Delaware suspect in Whitmer plot was pardoned last year

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DOVER, Del. (AP) — The Delaware man charged in federal court with conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has a long criminal history and was pardoned just last year by Delaware’s governor for crimes dating to 1994, according to state records.

Barry G. Croft Jr., 44, was taken into custody this week after being arrested by the FBI in Swedesboro, New Jersey. Croft made an initial appearance before a federal magistrate in Wilmington on Thursday.

Croft was being held Friday at a state prison in Wilmington. A hearing on his continued detention and removal to Michigan is scheduled for Tuesday.

Five other men, all from Michigan, were charged in the alleged scheme that involved months of planning and even rehearsals to snatch Whitmer from her vacation home.

Croft spent nearly three years in prison after being convicted on Dec. 1, 1997, of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. That sentence followed a one-year stint that ended in March 1996.

In April 2019, one week after Delaware revenue officials filed a state tax lien against Croft for more than $36,700, Democratic Gov. John Carney granted him a pardon for the 1997 gun charge and several other convictions from 1994 to 1996. The crimes involved included assault, burglary, theft and receiving stolen property.

Carney’s pardon came after a December 2018 Board of Pardons hearing at which the attorney general’s office did not object to Croft’s request for a pardon. The board’s recommendation for a pardon was based on the lack of opposition from the state “and the need for a pardon for employment purposes.”

“The prior administration did not oppose this application because Croft’s criminal history was more than 20 years old and it appeared to everyone involved that his offenses were in his past and that he had gotten himself on the right track,” said Mat Marshall, a spokeswoman for Democratic Attorney General Kathy Jennings. “Needless to say, nobody — neither the DOJ nor the bipartisan Board of Pardons — would have endorsed a pardon had they known what the future held.”

Jonathan Starkey, a spokesman for Carney, noted that the charges in Croft’s unopposed pardon petition were from 1994 and 1997, more than 20 years earlier, and the pardon was unopposed.

“The charges brought in Michigan are disturbing and everyone charged in this plot should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Starkey said. “This is also another warning sign about the growing threat of violence and radicalization in our politics.”

In addition to Croft’s criminal convictions, authorities in Delaware twice sought to have him declared a habitual offender for motor vehicle offenses, first in 1995 and again in 2004.

He was also the subject of a criminal judgment filed in July 2005 but not satisfied until 2018. It’s unclear what offense that involved.

According to the Delaware Department of Correction, Croft was last under DOC supervision in January 2005, when a period of probation ended.