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'I wouldn't consider him my leader': Garbin and Franks testify in Governor Whitmer kidnap plot retrial

Ty Garbin was sentenced to 75 months in prison prior to the first trial, but seeks to have his sentence reduced further for his continued cooperation
garbin web.jpeg
Posted at 11:18 AM, Aug 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-17 18:46:29-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — One of the two co-defendants who entered into plea agreements with the government was cross-examined by defense attorneys in the retrial of the men charged with plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Ty Garbin was sentenced to a little more than six years in prison for his role in the alleged conspiracy.

Both he and Kaleb Franks were charged in the government's original indictment but agreed to testify on behalf of the government before the case went to trial.

Franks has not yet been sentenced.

Wednesday morning began with Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler doing direct exam on Garbin, prompting him to say that he and Franks taught Adam Fox to “use firearms, do magazine changes, weapon manipulation, how to shoot under pressure, how to become a better shooter.”

Garbin told Kessler from the stand that he and Franks were "operators" in the plot, while he considered Fox to be a "leader."

When asked about how he perceived Croft, he responded, "I'd also consider Croft a leader."

When Kessler questioned his answer, he replied, "Or he could have been an operator as well."

Garbin said that Fox and Croft were "very serious" and "very eager to continue" with the alleged kidnapping plot.

When Adam Fox's attorney, Chris Gibbons, began the process of cross-examining Garbin, he asked him if Fox was ever included in the leadership chat group for the Wolverine Watchmen, questioning the notion that his client was a leader in the alleged plot.

Garbin confirmed that Fox was never included in either the leadership chat or the general chat that the group had going.

Gibbons also said Wednesday was the first time that Garbin ever claimed to have provided Fox with firearms training, saying it was left out when Garbin appeared before two grand juries and in the first trial.

When asked if he considered Fox his leader, Garbin responded, "I wouldn't exactly consider him my leader, just of the plot itself."

Garbin explained that for some time he thought the idea of the group kidnapping a governor or storming a capitol building was a "terrible" idea.

He said on the stand that he "truly became committed to" the alleged plot in mid-August.

"Was it on the hike with (Dan) Harris and (Kaleb) Franks?" Gibbons asked him, referring to an Aug. 5 hike the three went on.

"I don't know; I don't remember what happened on that hike," Garbin replied.

In the first trial, Kaleb Franks testified that it was on that hike that he, Harris and Garbin finally agreed to the kidnapping plan.

Croft's attorney, Joshua Blanchard, asked Garbin on Wednesday why he wasn't mentioning the names of Brandon Caserta or Daniel Harris, the two men acquitted on all charges in the first trial, during his testimony.

“They’re not here in the courtroom," Garbin answered.

Blanchard asked him, "Did anyone tell you not to mention their names?"

"Not specifically, no."

When Blanchard inquired about how Garbin had prepared for Wednesday's testimony, he acknowledged meeting with the FBI and lawyers for the government on "multiple occasions" between the first trial and the retrial.

Garbin acknowledged being given advice on how to answer questions "at times," and how to deal with defense attorneys.

When Blanchard asked Garbin if he was scared about going to prison being labeled a "snitch," Garbin said no and referenced a "recent DOJ study" that he says claims "60% of inmates in the federal system cooperated" with prosecutors.

Garbin also acknowledged on that stand that Croft was not considered part of the Wolverine Watchmen by the group.

After defense attorneys were done with Garbin, the government called FBI Special Agent Kathryn Martinez, who works out of the agency's Wilmington, Delaware, office on a white collar crime squad.

Martinez testified because she was present on scene when Barry Croft was arrested at a Wawa gas station in New Jersey.

She ended up taking photographs of items found in Croft's truck and testified about those items Wednesday.

They found a lot of "prepper stuff" in Croft's truck, including a LifeStraw-brand water-purifying device, a substance believed to be cannabis, and cannabis paraphernalia.

The agency also found a Glock handgun in the vehicle.

FBI Special Agent Ryan Clark was the government's next witness.

Clark took part in the search warrant executed on the Vac Shack, the Grand Rapids vacuum repair shop where Adam Fox was working and living.

Clark testified about a Taurus pistol found on a work bench in the business and a Palmetto rifle found in the basement near Fox's bed.

They also found a Hawaiian shirt in a duffel bag in the basement, an item the government claims shows Fox's admiration towards the "Boogaloo" movement.

After quick exchanges with the two FBI agents, the government called Kaleb Franks.

Franks was the other co-defendant who accepted a plea deal from the government, and testified in the first trial on their behalf.

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Kaleb Franks and Ty Garbin seen in booking photos

“They were for it," Franks said regarding Fox and Croft's feelings towards kidnapping Governor Whitmer.

"I mean, every time I spent time with them, that’s what they talked about."

When asked by Kessler how he viewed Fox and Croft within the organization, Franks said he saw both men as "operators," as opposed to leaders.

"Did any of them ever show any reluctance to kidnap the governor?" Kessler asked him.

"No."

Franks also said he never heard undercover informants Dan Chapel or Steve Robeson say anything to Fox or Croft in an effort to persuade them into the kidnapping.

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