White supremacists in Michigan convicted of training for US 'race war'

·3 min read

Three members of a national white supremacist group called The Base have pleaded guilty in Michigan to conspiring to train for a civil disorder, marking the first convictions of the felony in the state’s history.

Founded in 2018, The Base, which is the English translation of “Al-Qaeda,” is a loose, neo-Nazi organization that openly advocates for violence against the U.S. and claims to be training for a "race war" to establish white rule across the country, including Michigan’s predominantly white Upper Peninsula.

Justen Watkins, Thomas Denton and Tristan Webb were each charged in Tuscola County with the following felonies: one count of gang membership, one count of larceny in a building, one count of possession of a firearm, and one count of conspiring to train with firearms for a civil disorder in August 2021. They were accused of entering two former Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) sites in Caro, which they assessed as future training grounds for “hate camps,” according to prosecutors.

A fourth member, Alfred Gorman, was charged alongside Watkins in Washtenaw County with the following felonies: gang membership, unlawful posting of a message, and using computers to commit a crime in October 2020. Those charges were filed in connection to a December 2019 incident in which the pair terrorized a family in Dexter after mistaking their home as the residence of Daniel Harper, a podcaster who speaks against white nationalism.

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Watkins, who claims to be the group’s leader, pleaded guilty to gang membership in Washtenaw County, as well as to conspiring for a civil disorder and felony firearm in Tuscola County. His Washtenaw sentencing is set on June 13, while a date is yet to be announced for Tuscola.

Denton pleaded no contest to conspiracy and felony firearm. He was sentenced to two years for the former and between nine months and four years for the latter, which will run concurrently. The rest of his charges were dismissed.

Webb pleaded no contest to all charges save for the larceny count, which will be dismissed as part of the plea. A sentencing date is yet to be announced.

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Gorman pleaded guilty to gang membership and was sentenced to four years of probation. His remaining charges were dismissed.

“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,” Tuscola County Prosecutor Mark Reene said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said securing the conspiracy convictions creates a “historic precedent” and conveys the real dangers posed by domestic terrorism.

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“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,” Nessel said.

Multiple alleged members of The Base had been arrested in January 2020, the same month right-wing extremists stormed the U.S. Capitol. The arrests occurred in Georgia and Wisconsin on Jan. 16, Jan. 17 and Jan. 18, as per the Anti-Defamation League.

The group’s founder, who goes by the monikers Norman Spear and Roman Wolf, was revealed to be Rinaldo Nazzaro, according to an exposé from The Guardian published later that month. Nazzaro is American-born but was reported to be based in Russia.

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Featured Image via The Fifth Estate