GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A man upset over state-ordered coronavirus restrictions was sentenced to just over six years in prison Wednesday for planning to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a significant break that reflected his quick decision to cooperate and help agents build cases against others.
Ty Garbin admitted his role in the alleged scheme weeks after his arrest last fall. He is among six men charged in federal court but the only one to plead guilty so far. It was a key victory for prosecutors as they try to prove an astonishing plot against the others.
Garbin apologized to Whitmer, who was not in court, and her family.
“I cannot even begin to imagine the amount of stress and fear her family felt because of my actions. And for that I am truly sorry,” the 25-year-old aviation mechanic told the judge.
In his plea agreement, Garbin said the six men trained at his property near Luther,
Michigan, constructing a “shoot house” to resemble Whitmer’s vacation home and “assaulting it with firearms.”
The government, noting Garbin’s exceptional cooperation, asked U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker to give him credit for helping investigators reinforce their case against his co-defendants. He’s likely to testify at any trial.
The government sought a nine-year prison term, but Jonker went lower at 6 1/4 years.
Garbin “didn’t hold back,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler said. “He would come out and say, ‘We planned to do this and I was knowingly a part of it.’ He sat for hours answering all of our questions.”
Indeed, defense attorney Gary Springstead told the judge that Garbin “is going to be a star witness” against the others.
“Ty Garbin testified in front of the grand jury in support of the indictment that got him indicted. He is truly, generally and sincerely sorry,” said Mark Satawa, another defense lawyer.
When the kidnapping case was filed in October, Whitmer, a Democrat, pinned some blame on then-President Donald Trump, saying his refusal to denounce far-right groups had inspired extremists across the U.S. It added even more heat to the final weeks of a tumultuous election season.
Whitmer wrote a victim impact statement to the judge, saying, “things will never be the same.”
“Threats continue,” she said in June. “I have looked out my windows and seen large groups of heavily armed people within 30 yards of my home. I have seen myself hung in effigy. Days ago at a demonstration there was a sign that called for ‘burning the witch.'”
Last year, Whitmer put major restrictions on personal movement and the economy because of COVID-19, although many limits have since been lifted. The Michigan Capitol was the site of rallies, including ones with gun-toting protesters calling for the governor’s removal.
“The plots and threats against me, no matter how disturbing, could not deter me from doing everything I could to save as many lives as possible by listening to medical and health experts,” Whitmer said. “To me it is very simple: this had to be the priority.”
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Prosecutors preparing for the first prison sentence in an alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer are loudly signaling to five other defendants that a key insider has shared extraordinary details about the operation.
Ty Garbin cooperated within weeks of being arrested, willingly putting a “target on his back to begin his own redemption,” the government said in a court filing.
Prosecutors want U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker to take it into consideration Wednesday when he sentences Garbin for conspiracy.
Anti-government extremists were upset over Whitmer’s coronavirus restrictions
The government is recommending a nine-year prison term, a long stretch but one that would be even longer if he had not assisted investigators after being charged.
The FBI last October said it broke up a scheme to kidnap the Democratic governor by anti-government extremists who were upset over Whitmer’s coronavirus restrictions. Six men were charged in federal court, while others were charged in state court with aiding them.
Garbin, a 25-year-old airplane mechanic, is the only federal defendant to plead guilty; others are awaiting trial.
“He filled in gaps in the government’s knowledge by recounting conversations and actions that did not include any government informant or ability to record,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler said.
“Second, he confirmed that the plot was real; not just ‘big talk between crackpots,’ as suggested by co-defendants. Third, he dispelled any suggestion that the conspirators were entrapped by government informants,” the prosecutor said.
“Extremism has continued to be on the rise, and as more and more people were stuck at home”
In his plea agreement, Garbin said the six men trained at his property near Luther, Michigan, constructing a “shoot house” to resemble Whitmer’s vacation home and “assaulting it with firearms.”
A Tennessee-based group called Parents for Peace said it helps people move away from extremist movements. It is asking the judge for a “minimal” prison sentence, noting that Garbin’s rocky childhood and other factors contributed to his decisions.
The group’s hotline has “received a significant increase in calls during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Parents for Peace said in a court filing. “Extremism has continued to be on the rise, and as more and more people were stuck at home, online and found their social networks broken, people turned to extremism.”