Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced multiple felony charges Thursday against Justen Watkins, the self-proclaimed leader of The Base, a white supremacist group that advocates violence, along with another man associated with the group, Alfred Gorman.
Watkins, 25, of Bad Axe, MI, and Gorman, 35, of Taylor, MI, were arrested at their homes early Thursday and taken to the Washtenaw County Jail.
The charges stem from a joint FBI and Michigan State Police investigation into a December 2019 incident at the home of an Ann Arbor-area family.
The two men allegedy shone lights into the home at 11:30 pm while wearing dark clothing, and took pictures on the porch without the family's consent.
Afterwards, according to an affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, the men posted a menacing photograph to The Base's social media channel, showing Watkins wearing a black skull mask and body armor with rifle magazines.
But law enforcement authorites say the men had targeted the wrong house, incorrectly believing that it belonged to Dan Harper who hosts a podcast critical of the neo-Nazi movement and of the rise in white supremacy in the U.S.
Authorities say Watkins and Gorman had intended to encourage harassment and intimidation of Harper by The Base's members and "others with white racially motivated violent extremist ideologies."
The two men have been charged with:
- Gang membership, a 20 year felony;
- Unlawful posting of a message, a two year felony and/or a $5,000 fine; and
- Using computers to commit a crime, a four year felony and/or a $5,000 fine.
"Using tactics of intimidation to incite fear and violence constitutes criminal behavior," said Nessel in a written statement. "We cannot allow dangerous activities to reach their goal of inflicting violence and harm on the public."
According to the FBI and MSP, The Base is a white supremacy organization that openly advocates for violence against the United States and seeks to incite a race war and create a white ethno state in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and in the Pacific Northwest.
Law enforcement officials also allege that Watkins ran a "hate camp" in Bad Axe to provide members of The Base with tactical and firearms training in preparation for the violent overthrow of the government.
And they allege that Watkins posted a manifesto he had written to The Base's social media channels that included the declaration (emphasis in original text): "I will train with firearms, explosives, knives, Ryder trucks, and anything else I have to destroy THIS KIKE SYSTEM THAT IS GENOCIDING MY people."