US Michigan Whitmer plot: Lawyer for accused domestic terrorist says suspect was just 'playing army'
Michigan bans open carry of guns at Election Day polling places on heels of Gov. Whitmer kidnap plot
President Donald Trump, who has been critical of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, trails Democratic nominee Joe Biden in recent polls in the state. © Provided by CNBC Armed protesters take part in an Michigan's secretary of state on Friday banned the open carry of guns at polling places and other official voting locations on Election Day in the state, a move that comes on the heels of an alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and after armed protests at the statehouse.
It's a late summer weekend in northwestern Michigan, and leaves have started to turn from green to shades of yellow and orange in the village of Luther, home to about 320. A mile or so off the main road, deep in the woods, a few people live in mobile homes parked atop a hill. There's no running water or electricity and the best way to get there is four-wheel-drive.
Just past one mobile home, neat piles of seven or eight tires stretch out 15 feet. Beyond them, wooden pallets have been stacked to form a C-shaped wall. Human silhouettes have been spray-painted in red on some of them. They are pocked with bullet holes.
'They're amateurs': Feds say plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was dangerous, poorly planned
U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally Berens agreed the government had probable cause to charge the six defendants, despite objections by defense lawyers.This is what the prosecution argued in court Friday in convincing a judge to order six men to stand trial on charges they plotted for months to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer because they were angry over her lockdown order.
And on that mid-September weekend, there was a large explosion.
"We heard a big boom, a big one," said Cliff Demos, who lives about a mile away with his wife and horses. "It was right over there," he said, pointing up the road. "It was huge. It was huge."
The FBI says a September 12 field training exercise there included making a bomb as part ofthat has led to and eight more with state crimes.
The FBI says the Luther property belongs to Ty Garbin, and he along with eight others were training there for a possible attack.
Whitmer says Trump 'inciting' domestic terrorism as campaign adviser dismisses President's rhetoric as 'having fun' at rallies
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called out President Donald Trump on Sunday for incendiary comments he made about her during a weekend campaign rally, saying the President's heightened rhetoric just days after authorities foiled a plot by extremists to kidnap her is "inciting this kind of domestic terrorism."Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called out President Donald Trump on Sunday for incendiary comments he made about her during a weekend campaign rally, saying the President's heightened rhetoric just days after authorities foiled a plot by extremists to kidnap her is "inciting this kind of domestic terrorism.
But Garbin's lawyer, Mark Satawa, says there is much still to learn.
In an exclusive interview with CNN, Satawa said the FBI's account of that weekend omitted details about his client's reaction and willingness to participate.
He confirmed that Garbin, 24, who has been charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping, was at his property with others and there was an explosion.
Thestates one of Garbin's guests, Barry Croft, had brought what he called his "chemistry set," which included components to build an improvised explosive device with a firework, black powder, and pennies as shrapnel. Later that same day, the group put the device in the clearing by the wooden targets featuring human silhouettes, according to the FBI, and Croft set it off.
'Incredibly disturbing': Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says Trump incites domestic terrorism
Whitmer's remarks Sunday followed a Saturday Michigan Trump rally at which the president criticized the governor, prompting chants of "Lock her up.""It's incredibly disturbing that the president of the United States, 10 days after a plot to kidnap, put me on trial, and execute me … is at it again … inciting this kind of domestic terrorism," Whitmer said on NBC's "Meet the Press," following a Trump campaign appearance in Michigan Saturday.
According to Satawa, that was a breaking point for Garbin.
"He had a smoke bomb in a balloon set off on his property that he quickly disavowed, took away, and said 'we're not doing this anymore' to the people that were doing it," Satawa said of Garbin, adding he questions whether his client was even aware of the bomb plans.
"Did anyone tell him in advance that they were bringing explosives? Did Ty Garbin say to anyone, 'You can't bring explosives'? Did they do it with his consent or with his wishes or against his wishes? Did they do it with his knowledge or despite his knowledge, without his knowledge?" Satawa asked.
But the FBI's account states that two months earlier, at another training exercise, Garbin had already helped Croft build a homemade bomb -- that time with a fuse. It was faulty and did not detonate, the FBI said.
The federal criminal complaint against Garbin and five others also details a message Garbin sent in response to an informant in an encrypted chat that alludes to what a bomb would do to a bridge close to Whitmer's vacation home, if they wanted to use an explosion to delay the arrival of law enforcement.
Lara Trump says the president 'was having fun' at a rally where supporters chanted 'lock her up' towards Michigan governor
Trump senior advisor Jason Miller said Sunday that the president had no regrets about his attacks on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer or the chants from the crowd.On CNN's "State of the Union," Lara Trump, the wife of presidential son Eric Trump and a senior advisor on the Trump campaign, argued that the "lock her up" chants used against Whitmer were not meant to cause any harm to the Democratic governor who, less than two weeks ago, was targeted in a kidnapping plot thwarted by the FBI.
Satawa says the paid informant is relied heavily upon in the government's initial case. He adds that, in general, there is a trust deficit when it comes to paid informants.
The case against the 14 men follows a monthslong investigation using informants and undercover operatives to gather evidence.
The weekend in Luther is critical to the FBI's building of its case because after the bomb test on Saturday, the men drove about an hour and a half to conduct surveillance on Whitmer's vacation home, the complaint says.
Satawa paints a different picture. "This was, in many ways, a campout," he said. "There were bonfires and cookouts and barbecues and so even the government's evidence suggests that only a small fraction of the people that were there were part of the conversation (about kidnapping Whitmer)."
He rejects allegations that the men, whom he calls "a group of guys in the woods playing army," would have carried out any plan to overthrow the government.
"Saying things like, I hate the government, I hate the President, I hate the governor, you know, even more offensive things like Whitmer is a tyrant or Whitmer is a tyrannical you-know-what does not mean that they seriously were planning to overthrow the government, or even seriously planning to kidnap her, put her on a boat, and set her adrift in the middle of Lake Michigan," Satawa said.
Whitmer: Trump’s Inciting ‘Domestic Terrorism’ Against Me
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer accused President Donald Trump on Sunday of “inciting” domestic terrorism by repeatedly attacking her at his rallies, calling the “Lock her up!” chants the president has encouraged even in the wake of a kidnapping plot against her “disturbing.” During a rally in Michigan on Saturday, the president appeared to dismiss what cops and the FBI have called a violent, militia-infused scheme to kidnap and possibly even kill the governor, saying, “I guess they said she was threatened.” With Trump taking aim at her over the state’s coronavirus restrictions, the crowd chanted “lock her up,” prompting the president to seemingly join in.
Whitmer has said she was shocked by the plot against her. "When I put my hand on the Bible and took the oath of office 22 months ago, I knew this job would be hard. I'll be honest, I never could imagine anything like this," she said the day charges were announced.
Satawa says his client is far different from the image the public has been given. He's a diminutive, fastidious young man who takes notes and is "a bit of a nerd," he said.
"I speak for Ty Garbin and only Ty Garbin, but my client is not a crackpot. My client is not a knucklehead. He is a good kid. He had a good job as an airline mechanic at the airport."
Satawa says that Garbin is close with his grandfather. "He has a very sort of quiet and shy personality, and he's very likable," he said. Satawa revealed Garbin's grandparents were at his property the night it was raided along with several locations across the state.
That same night, October 7, the FBI arrested their grandson and five others at an alleged meeting to buy explosives from an undercover FBI agent.
There arethat Satawa says he and the other defense attorneys have not yet received from prosecutors.
"We've seen about 5% of the evidence," Satawa said.
Echoes of an earlier alleged terror plot in Michigan
And while the evidence prosecutors are putting together with informants, undercover FBI agents, videos and messages looks damning, Satawa reminds everyone that a trial like this before in Michigan failed to end in guilty verdicts on the main thrust of the case.
How FBI says Michigan gov kidnapping plot went from texts, small gatherings to raid
14 men are accused of plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The FBI revealed the men’s alleged paramilitary operation earlier this month, which included sinister plots to execute government officials, storm the capitol building with explosives and send bombs codenamed “cupcakes.
In 2010, the federal government broughtagainst nine people accused of being part of a so-called "Christian Warrior" style armed group in Michigan called Hutaree. The suspects were accused of an anti-government plot in which they planned to kill a Michigan police officer and then planned to show up at the funeral to ambush more police officers.
The indictment said the suspects also wanted to use homemade bombs to attack law enforcement vehicles during the funeral procession. They faced charges of seditious conspiracy and attempting to use weapons of mass destruction, among other accusations.
But these most serious charges never even made it to jury deliberations. The judge said.
"While this evidence could certainly lead a rational fact finder to conclude that 'something fishy' was going on, it does not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendants reached a concrete agreement to forcibly oppose the United States Government," Judge Victoria Roberts wrote in her ruling.
Satawa, who represented one of the Hutaree accused, said: "The government lost, and they lost big time. They were just flat out wrong." His client walked free.
Satawa said that case also had video, informants and undercover FBI officers involved. He points to it to say no one should jump to conclusions before all the evidence is in view.
"The justice system presumes people innocent until proven guilty," he said.
And although his client is accused of being anti-government, Satawa says Garbin thinks the justice system will work.
"He believes in the system, that the system is going to work for him, that the truth is going to come out," Satawa said.
Michigan Gov. Whitmer: Every time Trump talks about me 'I get more death threats' .
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) on Wednesday said President Trump's remarks about her are leading to more death threats, a day after the president lashed out at her during a campaign rally in Lansing, Mich."Every time he sets his sights on me, I get more death threats," Whitmer said in an interview with CBS News. "The violent rhetoric has an uptick. And there's no question that it's had an impact."The president referenced Whitmer while speaking to a crowd of supporters in Lansing on Tuesday, prompting the rallygoers to chant "lock her up." He said Whitmer should be grateful for the federal agents that foiled an alleged plot to kidnap her.