Members of The Base facing new allegations of breaking into Michigan prison property

From left, Thomas Denton, Justen Watkins and Tristan Webb allegedly are members of The Base...
From left, Thomas Denton, Justen Watkins and Tristan Webb allegedly are members of The Base white supremacist group, according to investigators.(source: WJRT)
Published: Aug. 11, 2021 at 7:35 PM EDT
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TUSCOLA COUNTY, Mich. (WJRT) - Three members of an alleged white supremacist group operating in the Thumb Region are facing new charges Wednesday related to break-ins at former Michigan prison property.

Police say 25-year-old Justen Watkins, 32-year-old Thomas Denton and 19-year-old Tristan Webb broke into the Michigan Department of Corrections’ former Camp Tuscola Annex and Tuscola Residential ReEntry Program on Oct. 3, 2020. All three were members of The Base.

Both facilities in Caro are vacant and managed by the Michigan State Land Bank.

Investigators say the men took state-issued clothing from one of the properties and assessed both as potential training grounds for “hate camps,” which is what the group named their paramilitary firearms training exercises.

“As Michigan’s chief law enforcement officer, it is my duty to protect the public from those who act upon dangerous anti-government and white supremacy ideologies,” said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, whose office is leading the investigation into The Base.

Watkins was charged last fall with intimidating a family in Washtenaw County and posting photos on social media with the following caption: “The Base sends greetings to Daniel Harper of the Antifa podcast ‘I Don’t Speak German’.”

Investigators found evidence of other crimes while working on that case, leading to the following new charges announced on Wednesday against Watkins, Denton and Webb:

  • one count of larceny in a building.
  • one count of gang membership.
  • one count of conspiracy to commit teaching use of firearms for a civil disorder.
  • one count of felony firearm.

All three face up to 20 years in prison if they are convicted of the gang membership charge.

Watkins remains behind bars after violating his bond terms in May. Denton and Webb were offered $250,000 after arraignment in Tuscola County District Court on Tuesday. Webb posted bond and was released from custody on Thursday.

Nessel said The Base launched in 2018 as a white supremacy organization that openly advocates for violence and criminal acts against the government and allegedly is training for a race war. She said the group aimed to set up white supremacist rule in the Upper Peninsula.

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