Suspect Pleads Guilty In Plot To Kidnap Michigan Governor, Turns Government Witness

Jan 27, 2021
Originally published on January 28, 2021 8:12 am

One of six defendants charged with plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last fall pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to a single count of kidnapping conspiracy and agreed to cooperate with investigators.

As part of the plea agreement between Andrew Birge, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Michigan, and Ty Garbin, the government will not bring further charges against Garbin related to the alleged plot.

Garbin, 25, of Hartland, Mich., entered his plea before Chief U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker in Grand Rapids, who scheduled sentencing for July 8. Prosecutors left open the possibility they will ask for no jail time or a reduced sentence, depending on Garbin's ongoing cooperation with investigators.

The plea agreement lays out pages of startling details from Garbin about the alleged plot to kidnap Whitmer, a Democrat who was harshly criticized by former President Donald Trump and Michigan Republican leaders for her efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

According to the plea agreement, Garbin conspired with Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta, who "were members of the Wolverine Watchmen, a Michigan-based self-styled 'militia' group."

Garbin said planning began in June. "Field training exercises" started in Wisconsin in July when the group practiced breaching a structure with tactical weapons and unsuccessfully attempted to detonate improvised explosive devices.

The defendants, according to Garbin's plea agreement, concluded that kidnapping Whitmer from the Michigan Capitol would be too difficult and that her vacation home would be an easier target. Garbin said the group conducted surveillance of the home in August, posting photos and video of the house on an encrypted group chat. Garbin said he offered to paint his boat black to conduct further surveillance of the governor's vacation home.

Garbin said the group's planning, training and surveillance continued into the fall. According to the plea agreement, another member of the group was an undercover FBI agent. The defendants were arrested Oct. 7 when the agent invited them to a meeting as a ruse to gather the group.

The trial for the remaining five defendants is scheduled to start March 23. Before Garbin's plea agreement, his defense attorney had argued his client had no intention of carrying out the kidnapping, no matter what he had said, The Associated Press reported.

"Saying things like, 'I hate the governor, the governor is tyrannical,' " defense attorney Mark Satawa told the AP in October, "... is not illegal, even if you're holding a gun and running around the woods when you do it."

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