Two neo-Nazis jailed for nine years over US terror plots

Two neo-Nazis jailed for nine years over US terror plots
Two members of a neo-Nazi group have been sentenced to nine years in prison for plotting a violent attack with the aim of bringing down the US government.

Two members of a neo-Nazi group have been sentenced to nine years in prison for plotting a violent attack with the aim of bringing down the US government.

The case highlights a broader federal crackdown on far-right extremists, deemed as the greatest terrorist threat to the US.

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 in January 2020.

The arrests came four days before a pro-gun rally in Virginia after conversations between Mathews and Lemley were captured on surveillance equipment installed in their Delaware apartment by the FBI.

They were discussing the rally and an attack on Virginia’s Capitol in Richmond and how it could orchestrate the downfall of the US government.

While they were not found guilty of any violent crimes, US District Judge Theodore Chuang concluded that they intended to engage in terrorist activity, applying a “terrorism enhancement” to their sentences.

Under federal guidelines, this significantly increases recommended prison terms.

The closed-circuit television camera and microphone in their apartment also captured Mathews and Lemley discussing breaking racist mass killer Dylann Roof out of prison, where he is on death row.

They also talked about assassinating a Virginia lawmaker, destroying rail lines and power lines, derailing trains and poisoning water supplies, prosecutors said.

“We’ll give them bad guys. We will give them white supremacist terrorists if that’s what they want,” Mathews said on a video that he recorded in November 2019.

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

“The court rejects the notion that this was merely talk among friends,” he said.

Both men pleaded guilty in June to charges including illegally transporting a firearm and obstruction of justice, and for destroying cellphones when FBI agents raided their apartment. They have remained in custody since their arrests.

Though they were not charged with any violent crimes, prosecutors called them domestic terrorists and recommended 25-year prison sentences for both men. Their defence lawyers sought sentences of just 33 months.

Mathews, 29, told the court he isn’t a “mean person” and regrets befriending “the wrong people”.

“I got involved with people who were extreme, very extreme, and hateful to the point of action,” he said.

Lemley, 35, said he understands why people would be alarmed and upset by his racist rhetoric on the recordings from the apartment.

“The things I said are horrible and don’t reflect who I really am or who my family raised me to be,” he said. “Murder was never in my heart. Only foolish dreams of war glory and valour.”

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.

Mathews told the judge that he regrets leaving Canada and would like to return, quoting the song “Home” by Canadian singer Michael Bublé.

His father said: “I really and truly believe Pat would never hurt anyone.”

Lemley served as an Army cavalry scout in Iraq before he returned home and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Their defence team argued that the men never developed any specific plans for violence. They said 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.

During the recorded conversations, Mathews and Lemley only made “generally fleeting references to imaginary scenarios without any serious exploration about particular targets or planning operations,” Mathews’ attorneys wrote in a court filing.

The Base and another white supremacist group called Atomwaffen Division are 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, with four other men linked to The Base arrested in Georgia and Wisconsin in January 2020.

Formed in 2018, the group seeks to create terror cells across the US and in other countries with the aim of starting a race war to establish fascist, white-supremacist states. The Base is banned in the UK under anti-terror laws.

More than a dozen people linked to Atomwaffen Division or an offshoot called Feuerkrieg Division have been charged with crimes in federal court, since its formation in 2016.

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.

With reporting from the Associated Press

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