Garbin gets six years in prison for Whitmer kidnapping plot

Carol Thompson
The Detroit News

Grand Rapids — A Hartland Township man was sentenced to six years in prison Wednesday for his role in the plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last year after reaching a plea agreement with prosecutors.

Ty Gerard Garbin, 25is the first of those accused in the high-profile conspiracy to be sentenced.

Ty Garbin

Four Michigan residents — Adam Fox, of Potterville, Daniel Joseph Harris of Lake Orion, Kaleb Franks of Waterford Township and Brandon Caserta, of Canton Township — plus Delaware resident Barry Croft Jr.,also have been charged in federal court in connection with the alleged kidnapping plot and will go to trial later this year. They argue they were victims of entrapment by federal agents.

Garbin pleaded guilty in January to his part in the conspiracy to kidnap Whitmer during the height of state-mandated coronavirus shutdowns last year. He is the only defendant to plead guilty, and both prosecutors and Garbin's attorney acknowledged Garbin would serve as a “star witness” if the others accused in the conspiracy go to trial.

From his seat at the head of the courtroom, Garbin apologized to his family and to Whitmer for causing them such distress since his highly publicized arrest.

“I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of stress and fear her family members felt due to my actions,” he said. “And for that I am truly sorry.”

U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker acknowledged Garbin's willingness to cooperate with prosecutors and his genuine interest in reform when he delivered the 75-month sentence. Jonker said he hopes it deters other people from getting swept up in extremist ideology and plots of violence.

The judge read a portion of Whitmer’s victim impact statement, in which the 50-year-old governor emphasized violence endangers democracy and has no place in political discourse.

The kidnapping conspiracy was especially dangerous because it targeted Michigan's top public official and went "to the heart of what we're trying to do together as a democratic republic," Jonker said. 

The roughly six-year sentence was appropriate, as Jonker acknowledged Garbin’s commitment to working with anti-extremist groups, his attorney Mark Satawa said.

“ I think we all share, to some extent, a concern about where America is in 2021,” Satawa said outside the courthouse. “We can’t even agree to disagree.”

Prosecutors have said Garbin should be given a lenient sentence because he cooperated with federal authorities, helping them confirm elements of the plot. He has testified before a grand jury, which helped prosecutors levy additional charges against others accused of orchestrating the plot. 

Gary Springstead, right, and Mark Satawa, attorneys for Ty Garbin, answer questions from media outside the Gerald R. Ford Federal Courthouse in Grand Rapids on Aug. 25, 2021.

More:Feds file weapon of mass destruction charges against accused Whitmer kidnap plotters

Garbin pleaded guilty before the discovery phase of the court proceeding, when his attorneys would have been able to review the evidence prosecutors had collected against him. 

"But Garbin did not wait to see what his chances were of escaping accountability," prosecutors wrote in an Aug. 18 sentencing memorandum. "He knew what he had done, knew it was wrong, and took action."

Instead of the 14 to 17 year sentence outlined by Michigan guidelines, prosecutors  asked Jonker to sentence Garbin to nine years. They hope a shorter prison sentence  will encourage his co-defendants to plead guilty.

Garbin's attorneys also asked Jonker for a more lenient six-year sentence, arguing his cooperation amounted to an "extraordinary acceptance of his responsibility for his actions." He should be sentenced well below the guidelines of 14-17 years, they wrote in an Aug. 18 sentencing memorandum.

Before his arrest, attorneys said Garbin had a clean criminal history and endured an abusive upbringing. They argued he is vulnerable to assault or death in prison because he cooperated with prosecutors.

Garbin's sentence is a milestone in the ongoing case against the alleged kidnappers. 

Another eight people have been charged in state court with crimes related to the kidnapping plot and threats to overthrow the government.