The plot to allegedly kidnap and potentially kill Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is but one of the many threats that have changed the life of the Michigan leader since she took office.
Whitmer elaborated on the impact of that plot and hateful rhetoric more broadly in a victim impact statement, filed recently with a Michigan federal court ahead of the sentencing of the first person to plead guilty in connection to the purported scheme to take the governor hostage.
“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,” Whitmer wrote in the statement, portions of which were released Wednesday by a spokesman.
“Threats continue. I have looked out my windows and seen large groups of heavily armed people within 30 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.”
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Last fall, state and federal law enforcement announced the findings of a sweeping investigation into a group of men accussed of plotting against the governor. The men allegedly planned to take Whitmer hostage and put her on a sort of trial in Wisconsin, before potentially executing her. The plans also purportedly involved discussions of laying siege to the statehouse, blowing up a bridge near the governor’s home and other violent acts.
Of the 14 men arrested in connection to the plot, so far only one has pleaded guilty: Ty Garbin, 25, of Hartland, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to kidnap charge. He acknowledged staking out Whitmer’s vacation home and training for the potential act.
Federal prosecutors asked a judge to sentence Garbin to nine years in prison. He faced a possible life sentence if he was found guilty at trial. A judge sentenced him Wednesday to 75 months, or 6.25 years, in prison.
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In her statement, Whitmer thanked Garbin for “taking responsibility, accepting the consequences of his actions and assisting in bringing others to justice.”
The remaining defendants have maintained their innocence. Some have argued they were entrapped by federal law enforcement agencies and affiliated informants, who allegedly coaxed them to take more extreme acts before eventually arresting them. Critics of Whitmer and others have pounced on this defense, using it as the basis for unrelated conspiracies involving the FBI.
Many of the accused plotters were originally involved in demonstrations and protests against Whitmer’s pandemic orders. Many of those orders mandated masks or resulted in temporary but drastic business shutdowns, prompting some fierce pushback. The Michigan Supreme Court ultimately ruled that one law Whitmer relied on to issue some emergency orders was unconstitutional; the state health department quickly issued similar orders under an unrelated law.
Whitmer has repeatedly defended her actions, and did so again in her impact statement.
“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,” Whitmer said.
But the last 18 months, since those first orders, have taken a toll. Whitmer said she’d expected disagreement and disrespect directed toward her, but not so much danger.
“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,” Whitmer said.
“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.”
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The governor has previously argued national divisive rhetoric, driven chiefly by former President Donald Trump, has spurred some of the public attacks against her. In her statement, she said the country must find a way to bring those back into the fold who believe violence and extremism are an acceptable form of political discourse.
Beyond her role as a governmental and political leader, Whitmer is a wife and mother. She had school-age children at the time law enforcement arrested the accused plotters.
The ramifications of this plot go far beyond concerns over democracy or her own personal safety, Whitmer noted.
“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,” Whitmer said.
“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.”
Contact Dave Boucher: firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-938-4591. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Boucher1.