Federal prosecutors have requested that two members of The Base, a white-supremacist group, be sentenced as domestic terrorists after investigators accused them of planning to sow violence at the Virginia Capitol and assassinate the state’s speaker of the house.
“The defendants pose a severe risk to public safety,” federal prosecutors wrote. “They are domestic terrorists and should be sentenced accordingly.”
The men — Patrik Mathews and Brian Lemley Jr. — were arrested days before a gun rights rally in Virginia in January 2020. In announcing the charges, the Justice Department said the men planned to spark a “race war” at the event in Richmond.
Mathews, a Canadian national, and Lemley, of Elkton, Md., pleaded guilty to firearms and immigration-related charges in U.S. District Court in Maryland in June. At the time, federal prosecutors described the men's’ involvement in The Base, which organizes military-style training and supports racist and antisemitic violence, and the men acknowledged their participation in the group.
But prosecutors at the plea hearing did not discuss the gun rights rally or detail any allegations of the men’s plans before the event, laying out new accusations in the sentencing memo filed this week.
The men discussed cutting power and transportation lines to the city, killing Black children and establishing a base camp in the Shenandoah Valley, according to transcripts included in the memo.
On Jan. 9, just weeks before the gathering, Mathews and Lemley discussed assassinating House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax), prosecutors said.
The men talked about obtaining the home address of Filler-Corn, the first Jewish and first woman speaker in the state, and placing a sniper outside, according to a transcript of the their conversation prosecutors included in the sentencing memo. But Mathews said that was “too high risk,” according to prosecutors, and Lemley commented that he doubted there was anywhere within 500 to 600 yards of her home where someone could sit and shoot.
The men then considered targeting Filler-Corn on her route to work, according to the transcript.
Their hope was to make the speaker a martyr for gun-control advocates, which would “probably accelerate their gun control agenda,” Mathews said, according to prosecutors. That would then, in their eyes, inspire their gun-rights comrades to become more enraged — and more violent.
Eventually, Mathews and Lemley decided to abandon the alleged assassination plan until they had a better sense of whether state lawmakers would pass the bills, prosecutors wrote.
Filler-Corn said in a statement Friday that she had only learned of the men’s plans on Thursday, the day the sentencing memo was submitted. She thanked law enforcement in Virginia and Maryland for investigating and prosecuting the case.
“This is extremely disturbing, and it should disturb all Americans,” she said. “This pattern of using violence to intimidate the leaders and symbols of our democracy undermines the core values of our democracy itself.”
Lemley’s federal public defender, Ned Smock said in a statement that the sentence prosecutors are recommending is “exponentially higher” than the 33 months he believes his client should receive.
Smock said a 25-year prison term is consistent with sentences imposed in cases involving death, not the 33 to 41 months outlined in sentencing guidelines for the crimes to which Lemley pleaded guilty.
Smock also said Lemley has no criminal record and has never engaged in violence, and that prosecutors are basing their enhancement argument on “hundreds of hours of secretly monitored conversations” inside the apartment he shared with Mathews.
“Mark Lemley is a U.S. Army veteran who proudly served our country in Iraq,” Smock said. “He lost his way during a difficult time in his life and has accepted responsibility for the crimes he committed.”
An attorney for Mathews did not immediately return a request for comment.
Mathews, a former combat engineer in the Canadian army reserve, pleaded guilty to transporting a firearm and ammunition in interstate commerce with intent to commit a felony, and being an alien in possession of a firearm and ammunition. Lemley, who had served as an Army scout, pleaded guilty to similar charges, as well as with transporting and harboring an alien.
The men were also charged with obstruction of justice because they smashed their cellphones and dumped them into a toilet as federal agents were trying to arrest them.
Mathews and Lemley do not face domestic terrorism charges, however, because no federal statute dealing specifically with homegrown terrorism exists. Prosecutors often seek a terrorism “enhancement” during sentencing in such cases as a result.
Sentencing enhancements allow a judge to increase a person’s prison term. Prosecutors can ask for enhancements based upon how a crime was committed or who was victimized, but a judge ultimately decides whether an enhancement is appropriate based on a preponderance of the evidence.
In their memo, federal prosecutors wrote that the evidence is sufficient, including taped conversations in which the defendants “repeatedly confirmed … that their crimes were intended to promote enumerated federal crimes of terrorism.”
As Base members, Mathews, Lemley and a third man in the case, William G. Bilbrough IV, attended a training camp for the group in Georgia, prosecutors said. In late 2019 and early 2020, the men began assembling firearms and collecting thousands of rounds of ammunition, according to court documents.
According to federal prosecutors, Lemley and Mathews discussed further violence in additional conversations in mid-January ahead of the gun rights rally, some of which were witnessed by an undercover FBI agent.
The men said they expected 60,000 militia members to show up at the Virginia Capitol and that they were “rolling for chaos,” according to court documents.
Lemley allegedly told Mathews they “must act now.”
Mathews responded, according to prosecutors, by citing a late white-supremacist leader, then said: “We can’t fail where they have failed or else the White race is extinct.” They said they’d be ashamed if a “Battle of Richmond” took place and they weren’t involved.
“It’s just that we can’t live with ourselves if we don’t get somebody’s blood on our hands,” Lemley said, according to court documents.
The day before their arrest, according to the sentencing memo, the men also discussed the possibility they would be detained.
“Right now, if I ever get captured, I am going to jail for the rest of my life,” Mathews said. “You realize they’re just going to call us terrorists …”
He said they “might as well go to jail for something good.”
Mathews added: “Might as well do some damage to the system.”
On Jan. 16, 2020, federal agents arrested both men at a residence in Delaware.
Mathews and Lemley are scheduled to be sentenced at the end of October.
Bilbrough pleaded guilty to two counts of transporting an alien and was sentenced to five years in federal prison in December.
Gregory S. Schneider contributed to this report.