Four members of a white supremacist group known as “The Base”—which trains recruits for a race war—have been convicted in Michigan, authorities said.
The cases against Justen Watkins, Alfred Gorman, Thomas Denton and Tristan Webb all ended in guilty or no-contest pleas, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced on Tuesday.
One of the charges filed against Watkins, Denton and Webb was conspiring to train for a civil disorder, making the first convictions for the felony in the state’s history.
“Securing these convictions on the conspiracy to train for civil disorder holds significance for many reasons,” Nessel said.
“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.”
“The Base”—the literal translation of ” Al-Qaeda ” in English—is a white supremacy gang founded in 2018 that “openly advocates for violence and criminal acts against the U.S.” and purports to be training for a war to establish white ethno-nationalist rule in parts of the U.S., according to the Michigan Attorney General’s Office.
The group is “fundamentally anti-Semitic” and embraces Nazi ideology, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Membership is limited to nationalists of European descent, with the group valuing those with military experience.
According to the attorney general’s office, Watkins claims to be the leader of the group and reportedly ran a “hate camp” for members, where he led tactical and firearms training with the goal of “being prepared for the violent overthrow of the government.”
He and Gorman were charged in 2020 in connection with an incident where a family in Dexter was “terrorized” by two men who shined a light in their home, took photos of their property and posted the images online, the Attorney General’s Office said. They targeted the home, mistakenly believing it belonged to Daniel Harper, a podcaster who speaks out against white supremacists.
Watkins, Denton and Webb entered two vacant Michigan Department of Corrections properties in Caro in 2020 to assess whether they could be used as “hate camps,” the office added.
Webb pleaded no contest this week to gang membership, conspiracy to train with firearms for a civil disorder and felony firearm. A larceny in a building charge will be dismissed as part of the plea. His sentencing date is yet to be set.
Watkins in April pleaded guilty to conspiracy to train with firearms for a civil disorder and a gun charge in Tuscola County. A sentencing date is not yet set. He also pleaded guilty to gang membership in Washtenaw County for a different incident in 2019.
Denton pleaded no contest to felony firearm and conspiracy to train with firearms for a civil disorder in Tuscola County and was sentenced to two years for felony firearm and between nine months and four years for the conspiracy charge. Those sentences will run concurrently. Other charges against him were dismissed.
Gorman was sentenced to probation in February after pleading guilty to gang membership. The other charges against him were dismissed.
Nessel added: “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.”
It comes days after President Joe Biden called white supremacy a “poison” that has been “allowed to fester and grow right in front of our eyes” as he mourned with Buffalo families earlier this week, following a deadly mass shooting where authorities said a racist gunman targeted Black shoppers at a supermarket.