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Plea deal raises possibility of new "weapons of mass destruction" charges in kidnapping case

Courtesy of U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Michigan
Federal prosecutors say Adam Fox tried to view Governor Gretchen Whitmer's home up north from across this lake. Another man charged in the case, Ty Garbin, pleaded guilty on Wednesday.

Federal prosecutors may be considering additional charges for use of “weapons of mass destruction” in the alleged plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

That’s a “major factor” behind why one of the six men decided to plead guilty to the initial kidnapping charges, according to his attorneys.

Twenty-five year old Ty Garbin of Hartland Township appeared in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan on Wednesday to enter his guilty plea.

In exchange for his plea and cooperation, federal prosecutors said they would not pursue additional criminal charges against Garbin, according to a plea agreement submitted to the court.

“If you take a look at the plea agreement, it sets forth some of the possibilities for further charges, that obviously the government’s considering right now and looking at,” said Gary Springstead, an attorney for Garbin who spoke outside the courtroom following Wednesday’s hearing. “And they’re very serious charges. So that’s a factor that our client had to take into consideration.”

Garbin could still face up to life in prison for his role in the alleged conspiracy to kidnap the governor. Under the plea agreement, prosecutors said they wouldn’t oppose a lesser sentence, if Garbin continues to cooperate.

Garbin's attorneys suggested he could face a much harsher sentence if further charges come forward in the case – including a possible charge for using “weapons of mass destruction.”

“We’re very careful at a point in a case like this to not say anything that isn’t on the record,” said Mark Satawa, another attorney representing Garbin who spoke with reporters outside the courtroom on Wednesday. “It’s part of the plea agreement that there were serious other charges, including weapons of mass destruction charges that were being floated, that may or may not have been issued against our client.”

The 17-page plea agreement includes a promise from prosecutors not to charge Garbin with the weapons of mass destruction charge.

The agreement also includes more details about the alleged plot, saying that one of the defendants – Barry Croft of Delaware – told the other men he bought an AR-15 rifle with a projectile launcher so that he could shoot grenades at police if they tried to interfere with the plot.

The plea agreement also alleges the men discussed the possibility that the Secret Service might be involved in guarding Governor Whitmer, if Joe Biden won the presidency and named her to his cabinet.

“Croft suggested putting a shoulder-fired weapon in the back of a pickup truck to use against the lead vehicle in the Governor’s convoy, and said he had brought the “thirty seven” (AR-15 with 37-millimeter projectile launcher) for that purpose,” the plea agreement states. “Croft also advocated using incendiary devices and IEDS against the convoy.”

The men were arrested on October 7, at a meeting that they thought was with an explosives expert. The explosives expert, who went by the name “Red,” was actually an undercover FBI agent.

In addition to Garbin, five other men, including Croft, face charges in federal court. Eight men face charges in state court. The federal trial is scheduled to begin in March.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Grand Rapids said the office has no comment on whether additional charges will be filed in the case. 

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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