CARO, MI — For staking out land in Michigan for use as “hate camp” training grounds, a self-proclaimed leader of the international white supremacist/neo-Nazi group The Base has been sentenced to prison. Meanwhile, he waits to find out how much extra time he will get for terrorizing a Michigan family he mistakenly thought was an anti-fascist podcaster.
On Tuesday, May 24, Tuscola County Circuit Judge Amy G. Gierhart sentenced 25-year-old Bad Ax resident Justen M. Watkins to 32 months to four years in prison, which will be preceded by a two-year prison sentence. The sentences relate to convictions for conspiracy to train with firearms for civil disorder and felony firearms, respectively, charges to which Watkins had pleaded guilty.
Gierhart gave Watkins credit for 280 days already served, to be applied only to the two-year stay.
The case was co-prosecuted by Michigan Attorney General Dana G. Nessel and Tuscola County Attorney Mark E. Reene.
“The tragic event in Buffalo that resulted in the murder of 10 people and the injuries of three others is an example of why we need to prosecute and prosecute these types of crimes to deter others from contemplating such acts of violence,” Nessel said, referring to May 14. racially motivated mass shooting in a New York supermarket by an 18-year-old white youth that left 10 black people dead and three injured. “Receiving these convictions for conspiracy to cause civil unrest sets historic precedent in our state’s justice system and speaks to the real danger of homegrown terrorism here and across the country.”
Nessel went on to say that the sentencing is “the court’s acknowledgment of the seriousness 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.
“These are very positive results for some very severe cases,” Reene added.
Late one night on Dec. 11, 2019, Watkins and base accomplice Alfred C. Gorman drove to a family’s home in the Washtenaw County town of Dexter and took pictures on the porch. They then uploaded the photos to The Base’s channel on a social media platform with the caption: “The Base sends regards to Daniel Harper from the Antifa podcast ‘I Don’t Speak German.’
Harper, one of the hosts of the podcast that discusses white nationalism, did not live in the house targeted by Watkins and Gorman, and he never did either.
“By their actions, Watkins and Gorman intended to threaten and intimidate Harper, whom they mistakenly believed to be residing at the victims’ home,” Nessel previously said. “The photo was taken without the consent of the victim’s family. The posting of the message by Watkins and Gorman was intended to provoke conduct that would make residents feel terrorized and emotionally distressed.
Nessel’s office on October 29, 2020 charged Watkins and Gorman with gang membership, unlawfully posting a message, and using computers to commit a crime in Washtenaw County. After these crimes were pronounced, investigators found evidence that Watkins and two other base members – Thomas F. Denton, 32, and Tristan Webb, 19 – had entered two former vacant Michigan Department of Corrections to Caro on October 5th.
The three men assessed the properties as potential future training grounds for “hate camps,” what the Base called its paramilitary firearms training exercises.
Nessel and Reene in August 2021 charged Watkins, Denton and Webb with gang membership, building robbery, felony firearm and conspiracy to train with firearms for civil unrest.
Denton did not contest the same two charges Watkins would later plead. A judge sentenced him in January to consecutive terms of nine months to four years and two years in prison. He is currently incarcerated at Parnell Correctional Facility in Jackson.
Earlier this month, Webb did not contest the same two counts as Watkins and Denton, as well as the charge of gang membership. He awaits his sentencing.
Tied to the Washtenaw County cases, Gorman, now 37, pleaded guilty to gang membership and on February 28 was sentenced to four years probation. Watkins in April also pleaded guilty to gang membership and is expected to be sentenced on June 13.
The cases result from joint investigations by the Michigan State Police Caro Post and the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Founded in 2018, The Base – the literal translation of “Al-Qaeda” – is a white supremacist gang that openly advocates violence and criminal acts against the United States. He claims to be training for a race war to establish a white ethnonationalist regime in areas of the United States, including Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The group also traffics in Nazi ideology and extreme anti-Semitism.
The Base is also active in Canada, Australia, South Africa and parts of Europe. It has been designated as a terrorist entity by the governments of Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.
Watkins claimed to be a leader of The Base and allegedly ran a ‘hate camp’ for members of the group, where he conducted firearms and tactics training for attendees in an effort to prepare for the violent overthrow of the government. According to a VICE News expose, secret discussions among Base members indicated that Watkins planned to purchase land in the Upper Peninsula to serve as the Base’s enclave.
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