Accused Whitmer kidnap plotter set to plead guilty

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

A Hartland Township man accused of plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to plead guilty next week, giving federal prosecutors the first conviction in a case that has shed light on violent extremism in Michigan.

Ty Garbin, 25, is scheduled for a change-of-plea hearing Wednesday in front of U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker in Grand Rapids, according to a notice filed Thursday. Details about the plea hearing were unclear Thursday and the U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment about the expected guilty plea.

Ty Garbin

The development comes one week after Garbin was scheduled to stand trial alongside five others accused in the kidnapping plot and three months after the FBI said agents had thwarted a plot motivated by anger over state restrictions on travel and business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The six are charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping, a felony punishable by up to life in prison. Eight others are facing terrorism-related charges in state court.

Garbin's lawyer, Mark Satawa, could not be reached for comment immediately Thursday.

The conspiracy described by FBI agents involved surveilling Whitmer's vacation home in northern Michigan and training with firearms and improvised explosive devices.

Co-conspirators are accused of discussing kidnapping Whitmer and leaving her in the middle of Lake Michigan. They also allegedly discussed "taking out" a second politician, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, and targeting other elected officials, including former President Donald Trump.

Defense lawyers have portrayed their clients as tough talkers who were exercising their First Amendment rights who never carried out any kidnapping plot.

This is the home of Ty Garbin in Hartland Township.

Earlier court hearings provided a peek at the multimedia trove of evidence gathered during the investigation, including secret audio and video recordings and encrypted chats and suggested the alleged plot targeted additional politicians and sought to topple governments in as many as five states.

The FBI portrays Garbin in court filings as a willing participant in planning an attack on Whitmer at her vacation home in northern Michigan, hosting training sessions at his rural property in Luther and helping build an improvised explosive device comprised of black powder, balloons, a fuse and BBs for shrapnel.

FBI agents raided this secluded camp in October in Luther allegedly used by militia members for planning, explosives detonation and other weapons training in connection with an alleged plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

He used emojis in one private chat while suggesting to blow up a bridge near the property to hinder law enforcement and joined a nighttime surveillance run at the governor’s vacation home, according to the FBI.

Prosecutors accused Garbin of training for an attack to overthrow the government, and suggested “shooting up the governor’s vacation home,” according to FBI Special Agent Richard Trask.

“He said he was ‘cool’ with going after the governor’s vacation home, however, even if it only resulted in destruction of property,” the agent wrote in an affidavit. “Garbin offered to paint his personal boat black to support the surveillance of the vacation home from the lake where the vacation home is situated.”