Advance Notice: Briefs

Alleged white supremacist accused of scouting abandoned Mich. jails for ‘hate camps’ to stand trial

By: - September 7, 2021 8:24 am

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A member of a militant white supremacist group who is accused of breaking into two vacant Michigan prisons to scout out new training grounds for “hate camps” is headed to trial.

Tristan Webb, 19, waived his preliminary examination in a Tuscola County district court and was ordered to stand trial, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Wednesday.

Webb is among three members of The Base, a neo-Nazi movement, who have been charged with one count each of larceny in a building, gang membership, felony firearm, and conspiracy to commit teaching use of firearms for a civil disorder. They face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

The other defendants Justen Watkins, 25, and Thomas Denton, 32, are scheduled to appear in 71B District Court in Caro for a preliminary examination next month. Preliminary examinations are used to determine whether enough charges exist to warrant a trial.

The Base is a pro-Hitler movement that advocates a race war against non-white people with the goal of using violence “to overthrow the existing social and political order,” according to the Anti-Defamation League. Watkins reportedly operated a “hate camp” for the group, “where he led tactical and firearms training for participants with the goal of being prepared for the violent overthrow of the government,” Nessel said.

Webb is free of jail on bond but cannot leave his home unless he’s traveling to work or court. Watkins and Denton remain in jail.

The men were charged last month with allegedly breaking into the vacant Michigan Department of Corrections Camp Tuscola annex and Tuscola Residential ReEntry Program in Caro in October 2020 and stealing state-issued clothing from one of the jails. The Michigan State Land Bank owns both buildings.

Watkins, the alleged leader of The Base, was charged with three felony counts in October 2020 for allegedly terrorizing a family in Dexter. He is accused of targeting what he mistakenly believed was a home owned by Daniel Harper, a podcaster who combats white nationalism on “I Don’t Speak German.” The home was owned by a man with the same name, but not the podcaster.

In September 2019, a U.S. Army soldier in Kansas was arrested on accusations of providing instructions online about how to build bombs to burn down Harper’s house.

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Steve Neavling
Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling is an award-winning investigative journalist with the Detroit Metro Times. He operated Motor City Muckraker, an online news site devoted to exposing abuses of power and holding public officials accountable. Neavling also hosted Muckraker Report on 910AM from September 2017 to July 2018. Before launching Motor City Muckraker, Neavling was a five-year veteran of the Detroit Free Press, covering Detroit’s city hall.