Advance Notice: Briefs

White supremacist group leader resentenced in Washtenaw County 

By: - August 18, 2022 12:25 pm

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Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Thursday that the leader of The Base – a national white supremacist group that advocates for violence against the government – had been resentenced by a Washtenaw County judge.

Washtenaw County Trial Court Judge Patrick Conlin sentenced Justen Watkins to 56 months to 20 years following his previous guilty plea to gang membership felonies. The charges were brought in connection to a December 2019 incident in Dexter, in which Watkins and his co-defendant, Alfred Gorman, were accused of using intimidation tactics at a family’s home and posting messages to other members of The Base targeting the home.    

Alfred Gorman pled guilty to Gang Membership Felonies in January 2022 and was sentenced to four years of probation and a one-year jail term which was suspended pending successful completion of probation. 

Michigan white supremacist leader sentenced on civil disorder charge

Authorities say Watkins reportedly ran a “hate camp” for members, where he led tactical and firearms training for participants with the goal of being prepared for the violent overthrow of the government.

“I refuse to allow domestic terrorists to incite violence against our residents and communities,” said Nessel.  “I am proud to work alongside law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal levels to safeguard the public from these serious threats and gratified to see justice served.” 

Amber McCann, a spokesperson for Nessel’s office, told the Michigan Advance that Watkins had to be resentenced because the original sentence imposed by Judge Conlin was invalid, according to the law.

“Judge Conlin’s previous sentence was 56 months to 72 months,” said McCann. “The law requires the maximum sentence range is the same as the charge’s maximum under law, which is 56 months to 240 months.”

In May, Watkins was sentenced in Tuscola County Circuit Court to a term of 32 months to four years in prison for conspiring to train for a civil disorder. That case resulted from joint investigations by the Michigan State Police (MSP) Caro Post and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). 

Authorities say Watkins and two other members of The Base – Thomas Denton and Tristan Webb – entered two former and vacant Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) sites in Caro to assess them as potential future training grounds for “hate camps”, which is what the group named their paramilitary firearms training exercises.

The May convictions secured against Watkins and others in Tuscola County marked the first in Michigan history that conspiring to train for a civil disorder was charged, while the Washtenaw County conviction was also the first time using the gang membership felony when charging a white supremacist terror cell under Michigan law. 

Founded in 2018, The Base – which translates into “Al-Qaeda” in English – has been labeled by authorities as a “white supremacy gang” that openly advocates for violence and criminal acts against the U.S., and purports to be training for a race war to establish white ethno-nationalist rule in areas of the U.S., including Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. 

According to Nessel’s office, the group also traffics in Nazi ideology and extreme anti-Semitism.   

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Jon King
Jon King

Jon King has been a journalist for more than 35 years. He is the Past President of the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors Association and has been recognized for excellence numerous times, most recently in 2021 with the Best Investigative Story by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Cleary University. Jon and his family live in Howell, where he also serves on the Board of Directors for the Livingston Diversity Council.