Neo-Nazi duo handed nine-year US prison terms over apparent attack plot

Judge rules pair intended to engage in terrorist activity in case that highlights broader federal crackdown on far-right extremism

Associated Press/October 28, 2021

Two neo-Nazi group members were sentenced on Thursday to nine years in prison each in a case that highlighted a broader federal crackdown on far-right extremists.

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 pro-gun rally in Virginia in January last year.

Surveillance equipment installed in their Delaware apartment captured Mathews and Lemley discussing an attack at the rally at Virginia’s capitol in Richmond. 

The judge who sentenced Mathews and Lemley to prison concluded that they intended to engage in terrorist activity. US district judge Theodore Chuang’s decision to apply a “terrorism enhancement” to their sentences significantly increased their recommended prison terms under federal guidelines. 

Chuang said recorded conversations between Mathews and Lemley captured the “virulence” and “passion“ in their willingness to kill people and bring down the US government.

Mathews and Lemley pleaded guilty in June to gun charges in Maryland. They were not charged with any violent crimes, but prosecutors called them domestic terrorists. 

The closed-circuit television camera and microphone in their apartment also captured Mathews and Lemley talk about breaking racist mass killer Dylann Roof out of prison where he is on death row, assassinating a Virginia lawmaker, destroying rail lines and power lines, derailing trains and poisoning water supplies, prosecutors said.

Mathews fled Canada after the Winnipeg Free Press published an article by an undercover reporter who met him under the guise of joining The Base. After crossing the border into the US, Mathews lived at a Georgia property where group members held military-style training camps. 

“He was intent on violence. He was intent on murder,” said assistant US attorney Thomas Windom. 

Defense attorneys said the men never developed any 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” into developing a plan for violence at the Virginia rally.

The Base and another white supremacist group called Atomwaffen Division have been leading proponents of “accelerationism”, a fringe philosophy that advocates using mass violence to hasten society’s collapse. A string of arrests dealt crippling blows to both groups. 

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 US from Canada in 2019.

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