First Person To Receive Plea Deal In Federal Whitmer Kidnapping Case Gets Six Years In Prison

Kent County Sheriff's Office, TPM Illustration
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August 25, 2021 6:15 p.m.

A judge issued the first sentence in the federal case against those accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, sentencing a man who pleaded guilty to participating in the plot to six years in prison. 

Ty Garbin is so far the only one of six men charged federally in the plot to reach a plea agreement with prosecutors. He pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to kidnap charge in January.

In a sentencing hearing Wednesday, Garbin apologized to Whitmer.

“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,” Garbin said, the Associated Press reported.

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Garbin has cooperated with prosecutors and is likely to testify at the trial of his alleged coconspirators. 

“He sat for hours answering all of our questions,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler told the court, the AP noted. 

Prosecutors had sought nine years of prison time for Garbin, but Chief Judge Robert J. Jonker of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan sentenced him to six years and three months behind bars, and three years supervised release.

“Threats continue,” Whitmer said in a recent victim impact statement. “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.’ For me, things will never be the same.”

A sentencing memorandum from Garbin’s lawyer Gary Springstead stated that he accepted responsibility for his actions and noted he had overcome “years of physical and verbal abuse at the hands of his biological father.” Garbin’s anger at Whitmer was fueled in part by a COVID-related pay cut, after which he sought out “similarly frustrated or aggrieved people on the internet,” the filing said. 

“He was skeptical of unchecked government power to begin with, young and impulsive, personally aggrieved, and psychologically predisposed to try to control his feelings of anxiety and vulnerability by taking control of a situation,” Springstead wrote. 

The case has hit some roadblocks in the months since federal and local authorities made a series of arrests: For one thing, a key FBI agent on the case, Richard Trask, was arrested last month and accused of attacking his wife after a swingers’ party.

For their part, prosecutors said that while he had been helpful to them, Garbin still needed to spend time behind bars — though they said that the sentence should be “at the low end of the advisory range.” 

They also invoked the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, dismissing Garbin’s alleged coconspirators’ claims that the allegations showed mere “talk” about harming the governor. The prosecution noted among other things that the alleged coconspirators cased Whitmer’s house, tested explosives, trained with firearms, and discussed potential play-by-plays of the attack itself. 

“Some conspirators also suggested at the preliminary examination that they lacked the skill to pull off the kidnapping, or that they had not fully thought through their objectives,” prosecutors wrote. 

“These are not mitigating factors, and we need look no further than the events of January 6, 2021 for an illustration. The rioters there failed to stop Congress from certifying the election, but they certainly demonstrated that amateurs can kill first responders and destroy property.” 

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