GREENBELT, Md. (AP) – Two members of the neo-Nazi group were sentenced 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, U.S. 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 2020. Surveillance equipment installed in their Delaware apartment captured Mathews and Lemley discussing an attack during the rally at the Virginia Capitol in Richmond.

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

Chuang said the taped conversations between Mathews and Lemley captured the “virulence” and “passion” in their drive to kill people and overthrow the US government.

“The court rejects the idea that these were just discussions between friends,” said the judge.

Prosecutors have recommended 25-year prison terms for the two men. Lawyers for each accused requested prison terms of 33 months.

Mathews, 29, said he was not a “bad person” and regretted befriending “the wrong people”.

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

Lemley, 35, said he understood why people would be alarmed and upset by his racist rhetoric the FBI secretly recorded.

“The things I have said are horrible and do not reflect who I really am or who my family raised me to be,” he said. “Murder has never been in my heart. Only foolish dreams of war glory and bravery.

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

The CCTV camera and microphone in their apartment also captured Mathews and Lemley talking about the release of racist mass killer Dylann Roof from the prison where he is on death row, assassinate a Virginia lawmaker, destroying railroad tracks and power lines, derailing trains and poisoning water supplies, prosecutors said.

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

Mathews fled Canada after the Winnipeg Free Press published an article by an undercover journalist who met him under the pretext of joining the base. After crossing the border into the United States, Mathews lived on a property in Georgia where members of the group held military-style training camps.

“He was determined to violence. He intended to commit murder, ”said Assistant US Attorney Thomas Windom.

Defense lawyers said the men never made specific plans for violence. And they argued that an undercover FBI agent who visited the Delaware apartment attempted to pressure the two “wounded veterans” to come up with a plan of violence at the rally in Virginia.

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

“I truly and sincerely believe that Pat would never hurt anyone,” said Glen Mathews, Patrik’s father.

Patrik Mathews told the judge he regretted leaving his homeland and just wanted to return to Canada, citing the song “Home” by Canadian singer Michael Bublé.

Lemley served as a scout in the army cavalry in Iraq before returning home and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Base and another white supremacist group called the Atomwaffen Division have been the main proponents of “accelerationism,” a fringe philosophy that advocates the use of mass violence to accelerate the collapse of society. A series of arrests dealt crippling blows to both groups.

In January 2020, authorities in Georgia and Wisconsin arrested four other men linked to The Base. More than a dozen people linked to Atomwaffen or a branch called the Feuerkrieg Division have been charged with crimes in a federal court since the group’s formation in 2016.

Mathews and Lemley pleaded guilty to charges, including carrying a gun illegally and obstructing justice, for destroying cell phones when FBI agents raided their apartment. They have remained in detention since their arrest.

The third co-accused, William Garfield Bilbrough IV, was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty in December to helping Mathews illegally enter the United States from Canada in 2019.

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