Man pleads guilty in conspiracy to kidnap Michigan governor

DETROIT (AP) — One of six men charged in an alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy, admitting that the group discussed an incredible scheme to snatch her at her lakeside vacation home and destroy a bridge to slow down police.

Ty Garbin’s guilty plea is a major catch for prosecutors, only about four months after arrests were made. His testimony would strengthen the government’s case against the others and back up evidence collected by informants and undercover agents.

Garbin appeared in federal court in Grand Rapids a few hours after prosecutors filed a plea agreement that is loaded with details about the operation and his pledge to fully cooperate with investigators. There is no agreement on his sentencing.

The FBI in October said it broke up a plot to kidnap Whitmer, a Democrat, by anti-government extremists upset over the coronavirus restrictions she imposed in Michigan. Six people were charged in federal court while eight others were charged in state court with aiding the alleged scheme.

In the plea agreement, Garbin, 25, of Hartland, admitted to more than six pages of stunning allegations. He said he and others trained with weapons in Munith, Michigan, and Cambria, Wisconsin, last summer and “discussed the plan to storm the Capitol and kidnap the governor.”

The plot, he said, eventually switched to Whitmer’s second home in Antrim County.

Garbin said he “advocated waiting until after the national election, when the conspirators expected widespread civil unrest to make it easier for them to operate.”

In September, the six men trained at Garbin’s property near Luther, Michigan, constructing a “shoot house” to resemble Whitmer’s vacation home and “assaulting it with firearms,” the plea deal states.

The men also made trips to Antrim County to surveil the home and the area, Garbin said.

Garbin said he sent a text message to someone who turned out to be a government informant, indicating that “if the bridge goes down it will stop the wave,” a suggestion that police would be delayed in responding to a kidnapping if a nearby bridge was blown up.

He said he also offered to paint his boat black for another night of surveillance.

Last fall, defense attorney Mark Satawa said Garbin had no intention to carry out a kidnapping, no matter what he might have said in recorded or online conversations. A “big talk” defense emerged as a strategy.

“Saying things like, ‘I hate the governor, the governor is tyrannical’ … is not illegal, even if you’re holding a gun and running around the woods when you do it,” Satawa said in October.

The other defendants are Adam Fox, Barry Croft Jr., Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta. A trial has been scheduled for March 23.

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