LANSING, Mich. — The leader of a national white supremacist group has been sentenced by a Tuscola County court. He is 25-year-old Justen Watkins from Bad Axe.
Watkins is the leader of The Base, a group that follows Nazi ideology and extreme anti-Semitism. The group also advocates for a violent overthrow of the government. In October 2020, Watkins was charged in connection to a December 2019 incident where a Dexter family was terrorized at their home. Watkins reportedly used intimidation tactics and posted messages to other members of The Base targeting the home. He was charged with gang membership, unlawful posting of a message, and using computers to commit a crime.
After he was charged, involved agencies found evidence of Watkins and two other members of The Base entering two vacant former Michigan Department of Corrections sites. They were reportedly looking at the properties as potential training grounds.
In the Tuscola County Circuit Court, Watkins was sentenced to 32 months-four years for conspiring to train for a civil disorder and a mandatory consecutive two years for felony firearm. The charge of conspiring to train for a civil disorder is the first time a defendant has faced the felony in Michigan’s history. He was sentenced by Judge Army Gierhart.
“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,” said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. “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 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.”