Justen Watkins

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — A white supremacist group leader will be spending a few years behind bars following being found guilty of multiple charges.

Justen Watkins, 25, of Bad Axe was sentenced to 32 months to four years for conspiring to train for a civil disorder, as well as a mandatory two years for felony firearm.

Watkins being charged with conspiring to train for a civil disorder marked the first time a defendant has faced the felony in Michigan’s history.

The tragic event in Buffalo that resulted in 10 people being murdered and another three injured is an example of why we must prosecute and pursue these types of crimes to deter others from contemplating such acts of violence,” said Nessel.  “Securing these convictions on the conspiracy to train for civil disorder creates a historic precedent in our state’s court system and conveys the real danger domestic terrorism poses here and around the country. Today’s sentencing is recognition by the court of the serious nature of these crimes and demonstrates the willingness of our justice system to hold accountable those who commit crimes in the name of overthrowing our government or perpetuating racist ideologies. I appreciate the work of our law enforcement partners at all levels to help bring these criminals to justice.” 

Attorney General Dana Nessel

CASE BACKGROUND 

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.