Thursday, November 5, 2020

The Base Leader had Manifesto, Wanted Race War, Prosecutors Say

The leader of a National Socialist group was granted bond as state prosecutors portrayed his group as a "dwindling crew" committed to "inciting a race war" in the United States.

Accused leader of the Base, Justen Watkins, 25, of Bad Axe, and associate Alfred Gorman, 35, of Taylor, represent the "last vestiges" of the NS group that has been the target of repeated arrests and raids nationwide, Assistant Attorney General Sunita Doddamani said.

"These are the last vestiges of this group," the prosecutor said. "Their goal is to create a race war and white ethnostate," a nation open only to white people.

The men, arrested during a continuing crackdown on White National Socialist activists in Michigan, made brief appearances in front of 14A District Court Magistrate James Cameron, who presided over a virtual videoconference from Washtenaw County.

Cameron set bond at $100,000, or 10%, for Watkins during a hearing that provided new insight into a pair of FBI raids Thursday, including at a rural farmhouse in Bad Axe. The 3.5-acre farm is where prosecutors say Watkins ran a "hate camp" for members of the group to prepare to overthrow the government.

"I do believe there does exist some potential danger to the community," Cameron said. "I am also concerned that there really is no permanent residence and some flight risk."

Prosecutors sought an "extremely high" bond for Watkins, calling him a danger to the community and a flight risk.

"(Watkins) has expressed a desire to die for the cause … and take as many people with him," the prosecutor said.

Doddamani shed light on the raid at the camp, saying FBI agents seized 15 guns and found "extremist propaganda" throughout the home. Watkins has written a manifesto "calling for genocide" and "urged followers to attack law enforcement personnel", the prosecutor added.

"We believe the defendant is a great threat to public safety," said Doddamani, noting he was engaged in "harassing" Negroes in Detroit. "He is not just a member of the gang. He is a leader of this gang … that openly advocates for acts of violence."

Watkins is a productive member of society with no record of violence, his court-appointed lawyer, Ashley Strawser, told the magistrate.

Nessel's office charged Watkins and Gorman with several felonies, including gang membership, a 20-year felony, using a computer to commit a crime, and unlawful posting of a message.

Cameron set bond at $50,000, or 10%, for Gorman on Friday. He was released from the Washtenaw County Jail after the hearing.

Gorman is not accused of belonging to the Base. Instead, prosecutors say Gorman filmed firearms training by group members that was to be used as propaganda and to recruit new members, the prosecutor said.

Watkins and Gorman are due back in court for a probable cause conference on Nov. 12.

The hearing continues a string of developments including arrests, raids and operations targeting National Socialist anti-government patriots and white activists this month. That includes accused members of a plot to "kidnap and harm" Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and a shootout in suburban Detroit between FBI agents and a Madison Heights man who died 28 years after his family became embroiled in the famous Ruby Ridge standoff in Idaho.

"The Base, operating as a paramilitary organization, has proclaimed war against minority communities within the United States and abroad", the FBI has said. "Unlike other extremist groups, it’s not focused on promulgating propaganda — instead, the group aims to bring together highly skilled members to train them for acts of violence", Nessel said.

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