Militiaman admits role in plot to kidnap Michigan governor, public hangings and rocket attack

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Ross Weidner WLS logo
Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Militiaman admits role in plot to kidnap Michigan governor, public hangings and rocket attack
A 25-year-old Michigan man has pleaded guilty to federal kidnapping conspiracy and admitted that the target of the abduction scheme was the state's governor.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A 25-year-old Michigan man has pleaded guilty to federal kidnapping conspiracy and admitted that the target of the abduction scheme was the state's governor.

Ty Garbin's plea agreement filed Wednesday morning in Grand Rapids describes the violent plot against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) by members of a group known as "Wolverine Watchmen." In a late morning court appearance Garbin pledged to fully cooperate with the government in their continuing investigation of the outrageous scheme and ongoing prosecutions.

RELATED: Disturbing new details in alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer

The 14 men charged in a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer had far more violent plans than just a kidnapping according to federal and state authorities.

Garbin helped run the group through commando training in Michigan and Wisconsin, federal agents said, and also planned an attack on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's lakefront vacation home according to the plea agreement. Garbin is the first of six federal defendants facing conspiracy to commit kidnapping charges. They all face the possibility of life in prison. While Garbin's plea agreement doesn't prescribe a specific sentence recommendation, typically prosecutors and judges reward those who plead guilty with lighter sentences.

Investigators said Garbin had a leadership role with the militia group and had met the plot's other accused leader, Adam Fox, during an armed protest at Michigan's capitol last summer. Fox has pleaded not guilty-as have the others charged in federal court and an additional eight defendants charged in state court with terrorism and gun violations.

Federal prosecutors said that as the kidnap plot planning was launched, Garbin and the others rehearsed with improvised explosive devices, some of which authorities seized when they took down the militia group. Investigators said they found an encrypted message from Garbin in which he discussed blowing up a highway bridge near the governor's vacation home as a way to "hinder" law enforcement responding to the attack on her and her family. According to the federal indictment, one of those charged in the kidnapping plot suggested if police showed up during a reconnaissance mission, the group planned kill officers after giving them one chance to leave on their own.

Even though Garbin's militia plot against the governor and other unnamed Michigan leaders was to take place last fall, the elements of the violence that he admits has several similarities to the U.S. Capitol attack that took place months later. Among them: participants were to use zip-tie restraints during the assault. Militia-linked Trump partisans and violent extremists were seen in the U.S. Capitol with batches of plastic restraints.

RELATED: 13 charged in plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer: FBI

The rogue kidnap blueprint in Michigan was first laid out during a clandestine meeting of militia members from several states that occurred in Dublin, Ohio June 20th of last year. Attendees discussed removing "tyrants" from public office in various locations including the Michigan State Capitol "and proposed using Molotov cocktails and other improvised explosive devices ("IEDs") to distract and hinder law enforcement during the operation."

The Michigan plot, according to Garbin's plea deal, called for the kidnapping of Gov. Whitmer from her Mackinac Island summer home and holding her for a public trial. Militiamen constructed a "shoot house" from plywood and practiced breaching the building to simulate assaulting the Capitol and elsewhere. They also rehearsed combat battlefield first aid to treat shrapnel wounds and gunshots during a melee. As the I-Team reported in November, one component of the scheme involved ferrying Whitmer in a boat to the middle of Lake Michigan and leaving her there.

According to the court filing, militia members had assault-style rifles, silencers, pistols, grenade launchers, bombs, body armor, ballistic helmets and night vision equipment to use in their planned attack. The court filing described surveillance and recon missions conducted by the kidnap squad on the governor, her family and their vacation residence.

During the ramp-up to the November presidential election, there was some thought that Gov. Whitmer would be named to a cabinet position if Democratic candidate Joe Biden were to beat incumbent President Donald Trump. Were that to happen, militiamen said that they would attack her Secret Service detail with a shoulder-fired rocket, according to the plea agreement, and take out the lead car of her security caravan.

Another component of the plot involved the gruesome public executions of a hundred or more officials by hanging them on live television.

The kidnap plot never came to fruition and no one was ever harmed although members of the alleged conspiracy did get within shooting distance of Gov. Whitmer on several occasions.

Garvin's attorneys did not respond to I-Team messages left on Tuesday.

He is not the only member of the militia group cooperating with authorities, the I-Team has learned. Some of his militia brothers are helping the government according to newly filed federal court records reviewed by the ABC7 I-Team. A number of uncharged militiamen have appeared in front of a secret grand jury-testimony that federal prosecutors have asked a judge for permission to share with Michigan state attorneys for use in prosecuting their own cases. In addition to Garbin and the five charged federally, there are eight others facing terrorism and gun charges in Michigan state court.