WARNING: This story contains distressing details
Patrik Mathews — a former Manitoba army reservist and an alleged recruiter for a neo-Nazi group — is expected to learn whether he will spend decades in prison at his sentencing Thursday morning in Maryland.
The hearing starts at 8:30 a.m. CT in Greenbelt, Md.
Mathews pleaded guilty in June to gun charges linked to what the FBI has described as a neo-Nazi plot to attack a gun-rights rally in Virginia last January, which he and his co-accused, Brian Lemley Jr., were hoping would lead to clashes between police and tens of thousands of heavily armed protesters.
Lemley, with whom Mathews lived in Delaware, is set to be sentenced the same day.
A U.S. army veteran who served in Iraq, Lemley has also pleaded guilty to numerous charges, including illegally transporting a firearm and obstruction of justice.
American prosecutors have said the pair wanted to instigate a civil war that would “decimate racial and ethnic minorities and subjugate women,” court documents show.
Though Mathews and Lemley Jr. have not been charged with terrorism, prosecutors successfully argued for a “terrorism enhancement” earlier this week, meaning a judge agreed their crimes were promoting a federal crime of terrorism.
The enhancement means they could be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison.
Mathews was first publicly identified as a recruiter for The Base in 2019 after an undercover investigation by Winnipeg Free Press reporter Ryan Thorpe.
He then disappeared after RCMP raided his Beaujeasour home.
When the RCMP executed a search warrant at his residence on Aug. 19, 2019, they found a handwritten list of mass shootings in a trash can, which included the year, number of dead and whether the shooter was on medication, court documents revealed.
Mathews later crossed into the United States and was missing for several months until he was arrested in Maryland in January 2020.
Planned to attack Virginia rally
Court documents revealed that the FBI conducted an underground operation beginning in July 2019 when an undercover agent went through an online vetting interview for admission into The Base.
The investigation found that Mathews, Lemley and other members of The Base conducted paramilitary training camps in Georgia in September and October, where they did tactical training and firearms drills.
At the end of the October camp, the members posed for photos wearing tactical gear and balaclava hoods that were later used in propaganda for The Base espousing using violence to accelerate overthrowing the U.S. government.
In December 2019, FBI officers got court orders authorizing them to install a closed-circuit television camera and microphone in the apartment where Mathews and Lemley were living, which captured them discussing their plans to attack the Virginia rally.
In some of the recordings, which were submitted as court exhibits, the pair can be heard talking about inciting violence and killing people in order to benefit “the movement.”
For example, in one recording Mathews can be heard talking about killing Black people, saying the group needs to start “getting rid of them wherever they stand.”
He was also recorded talking about killing protestors with the left-wing Antifa movement.
“Antifa need to start disappearing, and they need to start looking over their shoulder and being scared, and I think the way to do that … is assassination.”
In another recording, Lemley is heard talking about killing a police officer.
“If there’s, like, a po-po cruiser parked on the street, and he doesn’t have back-up. I can just execute him at a whim and take all his stuff.”
Among the documents and items FBI officers found after they raided the pair’s apartment was a video of Mathews wearing a gas mask and attempting to distort his voice.
In court Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Theodore Chuang said he agreed that the pair’s intercepted conversations discussing a plot to target the Virginia rally were more than just the “wishes and hopes and far-flung fantasies.”
He said he agreed that Mathews and Lemley were discussing a plan they intended to commit.
“This was not just talk. There was intent to move forward with this type of terrorist activity,” Chuang told the court.
The evidence presented in court demonstrates the pair subscribed to what’s known as accelerationism ideology, a belief held by white nationalists that accelerating the collapse of society through violence would lead to a white ethno-state, said Elizabeth Yates, a senior researcher National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland.
“They believe that ultimately, you know, because of their racist views, they believe that a strong, authoritarian, racist government will be the most successful in taking over and establishing a new state,” she said.
The terrorism enhancement indicates the judge accepts that Mathews and Lemley were trying to advance these beliefs.
“They’re not merely waiting for this to occur, they are hoping to take advantage of specific instances and events to try to create more violence,” she said.
Yates said members of The Base espouse some of the most extreme and explicitly racist views in all of the alt-right movement.
“Their rhetoric are some of the worst of the worst.”
A third co-defendant, William Bilbrough IV, was sentenced to five years in prison last December for helping Mathews enter the U.S. illegally.
Mathews is also facing separate charges for what is described as the ritual beheading of an animal during a paramilitary training camp in Georgia.