LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Multiple members of The Base, a national white supremacist group, have entered pleas in their respective cases.
According to Attorney General Dana Nessel, one of the charges filed against three of the members marked the first time a defendant has faced a felony in Michigan’s history.
Additionally, their pleas now signify the first convictions in state history.
The Base was founded in 2018. The name is the literal translation of “Al-Qaeda” in English. The group is a white supremacy gang that openly advocates for violence and criminal acts against the U.S., and purports to be training for a race war to establish white ethnonationalist rule in areas of the U.S., including Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
The group pushes Nazi ideologies and extreme anti-Semitism.
The cases resulted from joint investigations by the Michigan State Police (MSP) Caro Post and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).
Securing these convictions on the conspiracy to train for civil disorder holds significance for many reasons. They reiterate this office’s commitment to protecting Michigan residents, they create a historic precedent in our state’s court system, and they convey the real danger domestic terrorism poses here and around the country. I appreciate the thorough work done by our team and partner agencies to secure these convictions. Let them send the message that in Michigan, we will not hesitate to prosecute those who commit crimes in the name of overthrowing our government or perpetuating racist ideologies.”Attorney General Dana Nessel
Back in October 2020, Justen Watkins and Alfred Gorman were charged in connection to a December 2019 incident in which a Dexter, Mich. family was terrorized at their home after both men used intimidation tactics and posted messages to other members of The Base targeting the home.
Watkins claims to be the leader of The Base, and reportedly ran a “hate camp” for members of the group, where he led tactical and firearms training with the goal of being prepared for a violent overthrow of the U.S. government.
The men faced the following charges in Washtenaw County in that case:
- gang membership, a 20-year felony;
- unlawful posting of a message, a two-year felony and/or a $5,000 fine; and
- using computers to commit a crime, a four-year felony, and/or a $5,000 fine.
Evidence against Thomas Denton and Tristan Webb, two other members of The Base, entered two former and vacant Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) sites in the city of Caro a few weeks prior to the charges being filed.
The men assessed the MDOC properties as potential training grounds for “hate camps”, which is what the group named their paramilitary firearms training exercises.
Those charges, co-prosecuted with Tuscola County Prosecutor Mark Reene, were the following in Tuscola County against Watkins, Denton and Webb:
- one count of larceny in a building, a four-year felony;
- one count of gang membership, a 20-year felony;
- one count of conspiracy to train with firearms for a civil disorder, a four-year felony; and
- one count of felony firearm, a two-year felony.
These cases continue to serve as an example of what can be accomplished through the coordinated action of law enforcement investigation and prosecution at all levels of government. The Office of the Tuscola County Prosecuting Attorney wishes to recognize the extraordinary efforts and vigilance of the Attorney General’s Office, FBI and Michigan State Police. Detailed and exhaustive measures were undertaken to hold these offenders accountable and to further the health, safety and welfare interests of Michigan’s citizens in these most complicated of times.”Tuscola County Prosecutor Mark Reene
PLEA & SENTENCING INFORMATION
On Monday, Webb pleaded no contest to gang membership, conspiracy to train with firearms for a civil disorder and felony firearm.
As part of the plea, the larceny in a building charge will be dismissed as part of the plea.
A sentencing date will be set by Tuscola County Circuit Court.
Watkins pleaded guilty to gang membership in Washtenaw County on April 18.
Additionally, Watkins also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to train with firearms for a civil disorder and felony firearm in Tuscola County.
Sentencing is set for June 13 in Washtenaw County.
A Tuscola County sentencing date has not been set for Watkins.
Denton pleaded no contest to felony firearm and conspiracy to train with firearms for a civil disorder in Tuscola County.
He was sentenced to two years for felony firearm and between nine months and four years for the conspiracy charge, which will run at the same time.
The remaining against Denton charges were dismissed.
Gorman, who was only charged in Washtenaw County, pleaded guilty to gang membership and was sentenced on Feb. 28. He received four years of probation.
The other charges were dismissed.
“The pleas serve as an example of the FBI’s continued commitment to work alongside its law enforcement partners at every level to protect the security of our nation—even when Federal criminal statutes may not be available,” James A. Tarasca, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Detroit Division, said.