GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A man upset over state-ordered coronavirus restrictions was sentenced to more than six years in prison Wednesday for planning to kidnap and kill Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Garbin, who is from Hartland, was sentenced to just over six years in prison and will be required to pay a $2,500 fine.
Federal officials said should be credited for assisting investigators in making cases against the other five men charged in federal court. Others have been charged in state court, 14 people total.
Garbin was a member of the Wolverine Watchmen. He was the first member charged in the alleged plot to kidnap Whitmer to cut a plea deal with prosecutors. For the guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to drop the charge of using weapons of mass destruction.
Garbin said improvised explosive devices (IED) were involved in the plot to kidnap Whitmer.
“The weapons of mass destruction issue is an anvil hanging over the head of our client that almost would have assuredly resulted in the life sentence,” Garbin’s attorney Mark Satawa said.
Garbin admitted that he trained with the Wolverine Watchmen for the alleged plot to kidnap Whitmer. The group was formed out of anger over Michigan’s COVID restrictions. Garbin has agreed to testify against the men he said he trained with.
Other defendants have argued that the FBI entrapped them. Garbin’s attorney said his plea means the plot was very real and more than just talk.
“That factual basis lays out a relatively real set of facts related to the accusations and allegations in this case. ... That is one of the reasons the client did what he did today, which is, to say, ‘I got to won what I did. It doesn’t feel right,’” Satawa said.
Below you can read excerpts from Whitmer’s impact statement, which was submitted on June 21:
“The last 18 months have taken a toll on me. But this is bigger than me. It has taken a toll on my family, the community, the state, the nation, and democracy itself. No one has been untouched by the crisis that has plagued us.”
“We are a nation of laws. Laws that are intended to protect us, our families, communities, states, and our nation. It is an imperfect system. It requires participation, responsibility, respect for each other, and compromise. Violence and threats have no place in our politics. ...”
“The plots and threats against me, no matter how disturbing, could not deter me from doing everything I could to save as many lives as possible by listening to medical and health experts. To me it is very simple: this had to be the priority.”
“The details of the plot against me are terrifying enough that if I could have, I would have shielded my family and friends from them. ... My gratitude for the brave law enforcement officers of the Michigan State Police and the FBI is enormous. But even now we have not reached the far shore. Threats continue. I have looked out my windows and seen large groups of heavily armed people within thirty 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.”
“I have always enjoyed being out in the community, meeting people, learning about them, hearing what they have to say and trying to see the world from their perspective. That is what made me want this job in the first place and I will continue to do that because it is what the job requires. Disagreement and even disrespect come with the territory but now there is an element of danger that wasn’t there before.”
“The damage this will do to us is hard to predict, but I am certain that there must be consequences for those who try to take us down this dark path. The rise in violent extremism in America is one of the gravest threats we face. ... The violent insurrection we witnessed on January 6 is not an anomaly, it is our future if we do not work to address how we got here. Kidnapping plots and death threats endanger not just individuals but democracy itself. We must hold those who resort to threats and violence accountable. We can no longer ignore the hate and bloodshed within our borders.”
“We must find a way to come together again. This requires forgiveness of those who have become victims themselves of misplaced anger, hate, disinformation, and a misunderstanding of our democracy. That does not mean that there are no consequences for those who have committed crimes. Yet to reunite as Americans, we must find a way to bring those who have lost their way back from the brink, to remind those for whom violence represents an acceptable strategy that it is a path that will ultimately, and possibly irrevocably, divorce us from the founding principles of our nation. Their imagined defense of liberty is what most endangers liberty itself. Lies, radicalization and violent extremism are an existential threat to what we value. Now, more than ever, it threatens our future and the future we envisioned for our children. ...”
“We are a nation of laws, but for laws to be effective they must be enforced. There is room for grace and rehabilitation for those who recognize the danger that has been unleashed and assist in unearthing the hate that has taken root in our society. This will help reestablish the ideals and aspirations that made our nation a beacon of possibility and opportunity to the rest of the world. I am not the only one who has been impacted by this kidnapping plot. It is like throwing a pebble into a pond. The ripples expand to include my family and loved ones, the state I love, the citizens I serve, the country I have always believed in and the idea of democracy itself. We have all been impacted by this. To recover, we must travel a new path. The road ahead is full of obstacles and challenges, but it is lit by justice, truth, and the idea that there is little we cannot accomplish together. We are changed but we are not broken.”
“I would like to acknowledge this defendant for taking responsibility, accepting the consequences of his actions and assisting in bringing others to justice.”