A Michigan man who admitted taking part in an extremist group's plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in retaliation for Covid restrictions was sentenced Wednesday to over six years in prison.
The man, Ty Garbin, 25, is the only person to have pleaded guilty out of the more than a dozen men facing state and federal charges stemming from the plot. Five of those charged in federal court pleaded not guilty and face trial in October.
U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker sentenced Garbin to 75 months in prison, followed by three years of probation, and a $2,500 fine.
During the sentencing hearing, Garbin apologized to Whitmer, who was not present.
"First, I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her family," he told the court. "I've had a lot of time to reflect on my actions, and I never realized what my actions would have caused to her, but also her family.
"I can't even begin to imagine the amount of stress and fear her family members felt because of my actions, and for that I'm truly sorry," he said.
Garbin also apologized to his friends and family.
"I never took into consideration the emotional effect that my actions would take on them, as well," he said. "And for that, I was truly selfish to not take into consideration my family members that have meant so much to me."
He expressed a desire to continue to "deradicalize" himself and help prevent others from becoming radicalized and going down the same path.
In explaining why he was granting a shorter sentence than federal guidelines called for, Jonker cited Garbin's "concrete" actions that showed he was taking responsibility for his actions.
"That's what's more impressive to me here, and not just the words of Mr. Garbin that he's abandoning this path, but the things he's done, concrete things he's done, to demonstrate that he means it."
Government lawyers said Garbin cooperated extensively with their investigation, providing "a wide-ranging insider's view of the conspiracy," which they said evolved from planning to attack legislators at the State Capitol to rehearsing a plot to kidnap Whitmer from her lakeside summer home last fall.
Informed of the plot a year ago, Whitmer said: "I knew the job would be hard. I'll be honest. I never could have imagined anything like this."
Prosecutors said four members of a militia group that called itself the Wolverine Watchmen joined two other men, Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr., in discussing the kidnapping plans and in what they called "field training exercises," which included using guns and practicing how to breach a building.
The men conducted surveillance of Whitmer's summer house both in the daytime and at night and discussed planting explosives under a bridge to slow police who would respond, court documents said.
Investigators said Fox proposed holding Whitmer for "trial" or putting her in the middle of Lake Michigan in a boat without a motor as "a statement."
Federal agents and state police arrested the suspects in October, moving in when the FBI became concerned that an undercover source who had infiltrated the group was about to be discovered. Garbin's cooperation, prosecutors said, "filled in the gaps in the government's knowledge" by recounting conversations and actions that did not include the informant.
Garbin became frustrated with Whitmer's Covid restrictions when he faced a reduction in income as a mechanic, his attorney said, so he sought out other aggrieved people online and discovered the Wolverine Watchmen.
Federal sentencing guidelines called for term of up to 17½ years. Attorneys for Garbin and the government urged the judge to take his extensive cooperation into account. Prosecutors recommended nine years. His attorneys called for a sentence "well below the guidelines."
Both his attorneys and the government said that by agreeing to plead guilty and cooperate, Garbin put himself at risk of retaliation from extremist inmates in the prison system.
"Garbin willingly put a target on his back to begin his own redemption," prosecutors said.