Possible defense in alleged Gretchen Whitmer kidnap case could be suspects weren’t really serious

Possible defense in alleged Gretchen Whitmer kidnap case could be suspects weren’t really serious

  • October 25, 2020
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Judge me on my actions not my words.

That’s the potential line of defense for one of the 13 suspects accused of plotting to abduct Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer over her restrictive stay-at-home COVID-19 policies.

The attorney for Ty Garbin, a purported member of the paramilitary militia group Wolverine Watchmen, asserts that his client wasn’t serious about the potential kidnapping regardless of recorded conversations and online text claiming otherwise.

“Saying things like ‘I hate the governor, the governor is tyrannical’ . . . is not illegal, even if you’re holding a gun and running around the woods when you do it,” explained Garbin’s lawyer, Mark Satawa, to The Associated Press.

The defense seemingly parallels that of the Hutaree militia movement in 2010. In that case, nine group members were arrested for their alleged involvement in a scheme to murder police officers.

A Confederate flag hangs from a porch on a property in Munith, Mich., on Oct. 9, where law enforcement officials said suspects accused in a plot to kidnap Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer met to train and make plans.
A Confederate flag hangs from a porch on a property in Munith, Mich., on Oct. 9, where law enforcement officials said suspects accused in a plot to kidnap Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer met to train and make plans.
A Confederate flag hangs from a porch on a property in Munith, Mich., on Oct. 9, where law enforcement officials said suspects accused in a plot to kidnap Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer met to train and make plans. (Nicole Hester/)

Eventually, seven of the defendants were found not guilty of conspiracy and sedition because they had yet to identify specific targets.

But Garbin is accused of casing out Gretchen Whitmer’s vacation home.

“The defense lawyers are going to have their work cut out for them finding fair and impartial jurors who haven’t predetermined the outcome before they hear the case,” noted attorney Mike Rataj, who is not involved in the case. “On its face it looks terrible.”

A ghillie suit (center) is seen hanging Oct. 9 in Munith, Mich., where law enforcement officials said suspects accused in a plot to kidnap Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer met to train and make plans.
A ghillie suit (center) is seen hanging Oct. 9 in Munith, Mich., where law enforcement officials said suspects accused in a plot to kidnap Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer met to train and make plans.
A ghillie suit (center) is seen hanging Oct. 9 in Munith, Mich., where law enforcement officials said suspects accused in a plot to kidnap Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer met to train and make plans. (Nicole Hester/)

Other members of the Wolverine Watchmen stand accused of planning and training for other violent crimes, including raiding the Michigan Capitol building, noted The AP.

To get a conviction on the federal charges, prosecutors must prove that at least two people agreed to kidnap Whitmer and took at least one step toward carrying out the heinous scheme.

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The defense team will likely portray the plot as more fantasy than reality, said former federal prosecutor John Smietanka.

“The tricky thing about conspiracy cases is. . . . when you have multiple parties, whether they have the same motives and agree on a common plan,” explained Smietanka. “What exactly did they agree to, and how?”

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