Leader of ‘The Base’ white supremacist group who ran ‘hate camp’ in Michigan sentenced

Justen Watkins sentenced to 32 months to 4 years

A man in handcuffs. (WDIV)

TAYLOR, Mich. – The self-proclaimed leader of the white supremacist group “The Base,” who apparently ran a “hate camp” in Michigan for members to prepare to violently overthrow the government, has been sentenced to prison.

Justen Watkins, 25, of Bad Axe, was taken into custody around 6 a.m. Oct. 29, 2020, when Michigan State Police troopers and FBI agents executed an arrest warrant at his homes, according to authorities.

Watkins claims to have been appointed leader of The Base and apparently ran a “hate camp” for members of the group, including tactical and firearms training to prepare for the violent overthrow of the government, police said.

Officials said The Base openly advocates for violence and criminal acts against the U.S. and purports to be training for a race war. At one point, the group required members to read neo-Nazi books urging the collapse of Western civilization, authorities said.

“The Base” is the literal translation of “Al-Qaeda” in English.

Dexter family terrorized

Around 11:30 p.m. Dec. 11, 2019, Watkins and Alfred Gorman, 35, of Taylor, dressed in dark clothing and shined a light and took pictures on the front porch of a family’s home in Dexter, according to police.

They uploaded the photos to “The Base” channel on the Telegram social media platform with the caption, “The Base sends greetings to Daniel Harper of the Antifa podcast ‘I Don’t Speak German,’” authorities said.

Police said Watkins and Gorman wanted to threaten and intimidate Harper, but Harper didn’t actually live at that house.

Watkins and Gorman were charged with gang membership, unlawful posting of a message, and using computers to commit a crime -- all felonies.

Scouting ‘hate camp’ sites

After they authorized charges for the Dexter incident, officials said they found evidence that Watkins and two other members of The Base, Thomas Denton and Tristan Webb, went into two former and vacant Michigan Department of Corrections sites in Caro.

They were assessing the properties as possible future training grounds for their paramilitary firearms training exercises, which they called “hate camps,” according to authorities.

Watkins was charged in Tuscola County with larceny in a building, gang membership, conspiracy to train with firearms for a civil disorder and felony firearm.

Sentencing

Watkins was sentenced to 32 months to four years for conspiring to train for a civil disorder and a mandatory consecutive two years for felony firearm.

It was the first time someone has faced a felony charge of conspiring to train for a civil disorder in Michigan history.

“The tragic event in Buffalo that resulted in 10 people being murdered and another three injured is an example of why we must prosecute and pursue these types of crimes to deter others from contemplating such acts of violence,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said.  “Securing these convictions on the conspiracy to train for civil disorder creates a historic precedent in our state’s court system and conveys the real danger domestic terrorism poses here and around the country.

“Today’s sentencing is recognition by the court of the serious nature of these crimes and demonstrates the willingness of our justice system to hold accountable those who commit crimes in the name of overthrowing our government or perpetuating racist ideologies. I appreciate the work of our law enforcement partners at all levels to help bring these criminals to justice.”


About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.