GREENBELT, Maryland (AP) – Two members of the neo-Nazi group were sentenced Thursday to nine years in prison each in a case that highlighted a broader federal crackdown on far-right extremists in the United States.
FBI agents arrested former Canadian Armed Forces reservist Patrik Jordan Mathews, US Army veteran Brian Mark Lemley Jr., and a third member of a group called The Base four days before a rally in favor of weapons in Virginia in January 2020. Surveillance equipment installed in your Delaware. apartment captured Mathews and Lemley discussing an attack at the rally at the Virginia Capitol in Richmond.
The judge who sentenced Mathews and Lemley to prison concluded that they intended to participate in terrorist activities. US District Judge Theodore Chuang’s decision to apply a “terrorism enhancement” to his sentences significantly increased the recommended prison terms under federal guidelines.
Chuang said the recorded conversations between Mathews and Lemley captured “virulence” and “passion” in their desire to kill people and overthrow the US government.
“The court rejects the idea that this was simply a conversation between friends,” the judge said.
Prosecutors recommended 25-year prison sentences for both men. The attorneys for each defendant requested prison terms of 33 months.
Mathews, 29, said he is not a “bad person” and regrets having befriended “the wrong people.”
“I got involved with people who were extreme, very extreme and hateful to the point of acting,” he told the judge.
Lemley, 35, said he understands why people are alarmed and upset by his racist rhetoric that the FBI secretly recorded.
“The things I said are horrible and do not reflect who I really am or who my family raised me for,” he said. Murder was never in my heart. Just silly dreams of glory and valor in war. “
Mathews and Lemley pleaded guilty in June to weapons charges in Maryland. They were not charged with any violent crime, but prosecutors called them domestic terrorists.
The CCTV camera and microphone in their apartment also captured Mathews and Lemley talking about getting racist mass murderer Dylann Roof out of prison where he is on death row, murdering a Virginia legislator, destroying lines. railway and electric, derail trains and poison. water supplies, prosecutors said.
“We will give them bad boys. We will give them white supremacist terrorists, if that’s what they want, ”Mathews said in a video he recorded in November 2019.
Mathews fled Canada after the Winnipeg Free Press published an article by an undercover reporter who met him on the pretext of joining The Base. After crossing the border into the US, Mathews lived on Georgia property where members of the group held military-style boot camps.
“He was determined to violence. He intended to murder, ”said Assistant United States Attorney Thomas Windom.
Defense attorneys said the men never developed specific plans for violence. And they argued that an undercover FBI agent who visited the Delaware apartment tried to pressure the two “damaged military veterans” to develop a plan of violence at the Virginia rally.
During the taped conversations, Mathews and Lemley made only “generally fleeting references to imaginary scenarios without any serious exploration of particular objectives or planning operations,” Mathews’s attorneys wrote in a court docket.
“I really think Pat would never hurt anyone,” said Glen Mathews, Patrik’s father.
Patrik Mathews told the judge that he regrets leaving his homeland and only wants to return to Canada, citing the song “Home” by Canadian singer Michael Bublé.
Lemley served as an Army Cavalry Scout in Iraq before returning home and was diagnosed with PTSD.
The Base and another white supremacist group called the Atomwaffen Division have been the main advocates of “accelerationism,” a fringe philosophy that advocates the use of mass violence to accelerate the collapse of society. A series of arrests dealt crippling blows to both groups.
In January 2020, authorities in Georgia and Wisconsin arrested four other men linked to The Base. More than a dozen people linked to Atomwaffen or a branch called the Feuerkrieg Division have been charged with crimes in federal court since the group’s formation in 2016.
Mathews and Lemley pleaded guilty to charges including illegal transportation of a firearm and obstruction of justice, for destroying cell phones when FBI agents raided their apartment. They have been in custody since their arrest.
The third co-defendant, William Garfield Bilbrough IV, was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty in December to helping Mathews illegally enter the U.S. from Canada in 2019.