The FBI and Michigan state police have arrested a self-proclaimed leader of the white supremacy group The Base and an alleged associate, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said on Thursday. The suspects are linked to a December 2019 incident in which The Base allegedly targeted a Michigan family's home, mistakenly believing it belonged to a podcaster critical of the neo-Nazi movement.
Justen Watkins, 25, the man who allegedly claimed to be leader of the group, and Alfred Gorman, 35, both of Michigan, have been charged with felony counts of gang membership, unlawful posting of a message and using computers to commit a crime. If convicted, they could face more than 25 years in prison.
According to prosecutors, a man and a woman witnessed two men in dark clothing shining a light and taking pictures on the front porch of the family's home in Dexter, Michigan. The photos were then allegedly uploaded to The Base's channel on the secret chat app Telegram, and misidentified the house as belonging to the podcaster, who Nessel's office said had never lived in the home.
Nessel said the suspects intended to intimidate the podcaster and the posting of the message was "intended to cause conduct that would make the residents feel terrorized and emotionally distressed."
"Using tactics of intimidation to incite fear and violence constitutes criminal behavior," Nessel said in a statement. "We cannot allow dangerous activities to reach their goal of inflicting violence and harm on the public."
Prosecutors also said Watkins ran a "hate camp" for members of The Base. Prosecutors said he allegedly led tactical and firearms training for participants.
The announcement comes weeks after the high-profile arrests of more than a dozen militia members who were allegedly plotting to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Five days before that, a Michigan man who authorities said hated police and was preparing for a revolt was killed in a shootout with the FBI as they tried to arrest him, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Thursday's arrests were not related to the alleged kidnapping plot.
State and federal officials earlier this year announced charges against alleged members of The Base in Georgia. The FBI has said the" in the U.S., including in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.