The web Browser you are currently using is unsupported, and some features of this site may not work as intended. Please update to a modern browser such as Chrome, Firefox or Edge to experience all features Michigan.gov has to offer.
Convictions Secured Against Members of The Base
May 17, 2022
Intended Civil Disorder Charge Used for First Time in Michigan History
LANSING – Four members of The Base – a national white supremacist group that advocates for violence against the government – have now pleaded in their respective cases, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced today.
One of the charges filed against three of the members – conspiring to train for a civil disorder – marked the first time a defendant has faced the felony in Michigan’s history. Their pleas now signify the first convictions in state history, as well.
The cases resulted from joint investigations by the Michigan State Police (MSP) Caro Post and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).
In October 2020, Justen Watkins and Alfred Gorman were charged in connection to a December 2019 incident in which a Dexter family was terrorized at their home after the men used intimidation tactics and posted messages to other members of The Base targeting the home.
The men faced the following charges in Washtenaw County in that case:
- 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.
Following the authorization of the Washtenaw County charges, the involved agencies found evidence of Watkins and two other members of The Base – Thomas Denton and Tristan Webb – entering two former and vacant Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) sites in the city of Caro a few weeks prior to the charges being filed.
The men assessed the properties as potential future training grounds for “hate camps”, which is what the group named their paramilitary firearms training exercises.
Those charges, co-prosecuted with Tuscola County Prosecutor Mark Reene, were the following in Tuscola County against Watkins, Denton and Webb:
- one count of larceny in a building, a four-year felony;
- one count of gang membership, a 20-year felony;
- one count of conspiracy to train with firearms for a civil disorder, four-year felony; and
- one count of felony firearm, two-year felony.
The plea and sentencing information for each of the four men is below.
Yesterday, Webb pleaded no contest to gang membership, conspiracy to train with firearms for a civil disorder and felony firearm. The larceny in a building charge will be dismissed as part of the plea. A sentencing date will be set by Tuscola County Circuit Court.
Watkins pleaded guilty to gang membership in Washtenaw County on April 18. A week prior, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to train with firearms for a civil disorder and felony firearm in Tuscola County. Sentencing is set for June 13 in Washtenaw County. A Tuscola County sentencing date is not yet set for Watkins.
Denton pleaded no contest to felony firearm and conspiracy to train with firearms for a civil disorder in Tuscola County. He was sentenced to two years for felony firearm and between nine months and four years for the conspiracy charge, which will run concurrently. The remaining charges were dismissed.
“Securing these convictions on the conspiracy to train for civil disorder holds significance for many reasons,” Nessel said. “They reiterate this office’s commitment to protecting Michigan residents, they create a historic precedent in our state’s court system, and they convey the real danger domestic terrorism poses here and around the country. I appreciate the thorough work done by our team and partner agencies to secure these convictions. Let them send the message that in Michigan, we will not hesitate to prosecute those who commit crimes in the name of overthrowing our government or perpetuating racist ideologies.”
"These cases continue to serve as an example of what can be accomplished through the coordinated action of law enforcement investigation and prosecution at all levels of government,” Reene said. “The Office of the Tuscola County Prosecuting Attorney wishes to recognize the extraordinary efforts and vigilance of the Attorney General's Office, FBI and Michigan State Police. Detailed and exhaustive measures were undertaken to hold these offenders accountable and to further the health, safety and welfare interests of Michigan's citizens in these most complicated of times."
Gorman, who was only charged in Washtenaw County, pleaded guilty to gang membership and was sentenced Feb. 28. He received four years of probation. The other charges were dismissed.
"The pleas serve as an example of the FBI's continued commitment to work alongside its law enforcement partners at every level to protect the security of our nation—even when Federal criminal statutes may not be available," James A. Tarasca, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Detroit Division, said.
Founded in 2018, The Base – which is the literal translation of “Al-Qaeda” in English – is a white supremacy gang 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.
Watkins claims to be the 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.