AG Nessel Charges Leader of White Supremacist Group The Base

Contact: Ryan Jarvi 517-599-2746
Agency: Attorney General

October 29, 2020 

LANSING – Multiple felony charges have been filed against the self-proclaimed leader of The Base – a national white supremacist group with violent inclinations – and an associate of the group, following an investigation by Michigan State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The suspects are linked to a December 2019 incident in Dexter, in which a family was terrorized at their home after the men allegedly used intimidation tactics on the premises and posted messages to other The Base members targeting the home.   

Attorney General Dana Nessel today announced the following charges against Justen Watkins, 25, of Bad Axe, and Alfred Gorman, 35, of Taylor: 

  • 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 $5,000 fine. 

The charges were filed today in Washtenaw County 14A-3 District Court, as the victims’ residence and scene of the incident is within that jurisdiction. 

Arrest warrants were executed at 6 a.m. today at the defendants’ residences in Bad Axe and Taylor, Michigan by Michigan State Police troopers and FBI agents. Watkins and Gorman were both taken into custody and are to be lodged at the Washtenaw County Jail. Their arraignment is pending. Future court dates and other information may be found online at the court’s website

“Using tactics of intimidation to incite fear and violence constitutes criminal behavior,” Nessel said. “We cannot allow dangerous activities to reach their goal of inflicting violence and harm on the public. I am proud to work alongside law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal levels to safeguard the public’s safety from these serious threats.” 

Around 11:30 p.m. Dec. 11, 2019, the victims reportedly witnessed Watkins and Gorman dressed in dark clothing shining a light and taking pictures on the front porch of the family’s home. The photos were then uploaded to The Base’s channel on the social media platform Telegram with the caption:  “The Base sends greetings to Daniel Harper of the Antifa podcast ‘I Don’t Speak German’.” 

Through their actions, Watkins and Gorman intended to threaten and intimidate Harper, whom they mistakenly believed to reside at the victims’ home. However, Harper never lived at that address. The photo was taken without the victim family’s consent. Watkins and Gorman’s posting of the message was intended to cause conduct that would make the residents feel terrorized and emotionally distressed. 

Founded in 2018, The Base is a White supremacy organization that openly advocates for violence and criminal acts against the U.S., and purports to be training for a race war to establish White ethnonationalist rule in areas of the U.S., including Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The group also traffics in Nazi ideology and extreme anti-Semitism, at one point requiring its members to read neo-Nazi books that urge the collapse of Western civilization.  

The Base leaders have used online chatrooms to encourage members to meet in-person and engage in military training to prepare for the insurgency against the U.S. government. 

Watkins claims to have been appointed leader of The Base, and reportedly ran a “hate camp” for members of the group, where he led tactical and firearms training for participants with the goal of being prepared for the violent overthrow of the government. The photo of the Dexter home was used by The Base to encourage harassment by its members on the family. 

Gorman, an associate of Watkins and The Base, assisted Watkins in those crimes. 

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Please note: A criminal charge is merely an allegation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. The Attorney General’s office does not provide photos of defendants, but one may be available from the booking agency, the Washtenaw County Jail.