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News outlets petition for the release recordings from alleged plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer

Judge writing in background with gavel in foreground
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A group of news organizations called for the release of recordings of one of the men accused of plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in federal court on Wednesday. 

The recordings, made by the FBI,  feature Barry Croft Jr., one of 14 men charged in the alleged kidnapping scheme. They were entered into evidence and referenced in a detention hearing earlier this year, but not released. 

Lawyers for the New York Times, Buzzfeed as well as The Detroit News, and the Scripps network filed a motion for the recordings to be released to the public since they were entered as evidence in the high-profile case. 

Joseph Richotte, a lawyer representing Buzzfeed and the New York Times, argued that the evidence used to determine the pre-trial detention of Croft should have been presented to the public through news media. “It is fundamentally the responsibility of the fourth estate to supply that information so [the public] can exercise self-government,” he told Judge Sally Berens of the Western District of Michigan. “And that's why we're seeking access to those exhibits here.”

Joshua Blanchard, who is representing Croft, argued that the media already has access to some of the transcripts of the recordings which were presented in court, and releasing the recordings might have an impact on the trial.  

Releasing the recordings, Blanchard argued, “increases the likelihood that it spread far and wide and causes trouble at trial. Selecting a jury when they have the information they could have observed that they could have described it and they could put the actual words.” 

The harm caused to his client, he said, outweighed the benefit to the public. 

Judge Berens said she would issue a decision on the motion soon. The trial of Croft and five other men suspected of being involved in an alleged scheme to kidnap the governor is due to start on Oct. 21.

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