Prosecutor: Alleged Georgia white supremacists planned to kill others

Luke Austin Lane, left, sits with his attorney Samir Patel during a bond hearing Friday in the Floyd County Superior Court. Lane was denied bond. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
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Luke Austin Lane, left, sits with his attorney Samir Patel during a bond hearing Friday in the Floyd County Superior Court. Lane was denied bond. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

‘More targets’ found on cellphone, including local journalists

Three men accused of belonging to a white supremacist group here saw their alleged plot to kill a Bartow County couple as a trial run for murdering others, a prosecutor said at a bond hearing for one of them Friday.

Assistant District Attorney Emily Johnson called Luke Austin Lane, 21, of Silver Creek the “catalyst” and a recruiter for the neo-Nazi group in Floyd County.

She said Lane’s cellphone identified “more targets,” including local journalists, though she did not name them. Lane talked about killing a fellow member of the group as well as his own father, she added, and his phone included instructions for making explosives and “untraceable weapons.”

Lane has been charged with conspiracy to commit murder and participating in a criminal gang called "the Base," which authorities say is bent on overthrowing the U.S. government, starting a race war and creating a white ethno-state. Denied bond Friday, Lane remains in the Floyd County Jail with two others facing the same charges, Michael Helterbrand, 25, of Dalton, and Jacob Kaderli, 19, of Dacula.

“This group does nothing but promote terrorism,” Johnson said. “Those are the type of people who need to remain in custody. Otherwise, our community simply will not be safe.”

Lane, Johnson added, hosted a "fugitive" named Ryan Burchfield, who eventually left to fight in Ukraine for the "Right Sector," a group Johnson said is connected to white supremacists. Vice News has reported that Ukraine is serving as a training ground for the extremist right.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that other suspected white extremists traveled from Maryland to the Lane family's rural compound south of Rome for paramilitary training. Among them was Patrik Mathews, a former member of the Canadian Army Reserves who fled Winnipeg, Manitoba, after a local journalist exposed his plans to establish a neo-Nazi cell there. Prosecutors have described the Lane property as a "regional training camp" for the Base.

Further, Lane had a Nazi flag and a copy of Adolf Hitler's manifesto "Mein Kampf" at his bedside, Johnson said. Lane, she said, posted a recruiting flyer for the Base — it says "Save Your Race Join the Base" — near the Floyd Courthouse. She said he also posed with the group's flag outside of Rome City Hall and posted the image on Google Maps.

One of Lane’s attorneys, Emily Matson, argued those allegations are not a legitimate basis for denying him bond.

“Arguments made to detain him today prior to trial — prior to conviction — could be used to detain anyone for ideas and thoughts which you and I may find objectionable,” she said.

Lane’s father, Tom, testified for his release on bond, saying his son would be welcome to move back in with him, if he were freed from jail. Tom Lane also said he does not fear his son.

Under questioning from Johnson, Tom Lane said he was aware his son was a member of “some group. I didn’t know the name of it.” He remembered seeing people visiting his property on different occasions and confirmed he told his son, “You all don’t need to be doing anything to bring the FBI up here.” But he also said he was not concerned about what his son was doing on his property and was not aware of the alleged plot to kill the Bartow couple.

“I love my son today as much as I did when he was born,” he said, adding he would do whatever he could to help his son within the law.

Floyd Superior Court Judge John Niedrach indicated Lane’s attorney made “some very good points,” but he declined to grant him bond, citing the “disturbing” evidence prosecutors said they found on his cellphone.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported extensively on the case involving three alleged Georgia members of the white supremacist group called “the Base” since they were arrested last month. Authorities say the group is bent on overthrowing the U.S. government, starting a race war and creating a white ethno-state.