ROME, Ga. -- Additional charges will be filed against three men who are accused of belonging to a white supremacist group that prosecutors say plotted to kill a Bartow County couple, overthrow the U.S. government and start a race war.
The new charges — animal cruelty, livestock theft and possession of a dangerous weapon — were detailed Friday by Assistant District Attorney Emily Johnson as she successfully opposed bond for Michael Helterbrand, 25, of Dalton, and Jacob Kaderli, 19, of Dacula. The animal cruelty allegation involves a ram that was stolen and killed during a “Norse-pagan ritual” in which the participants drank its blood and posed for photos with its severed head, said Johnson, of the Rome Judicial Circuit. And the weapons charge, she said, stems from the group’s possession of a gun silencer.
The men are charged with participating in a criminal gang called “the Base” and conspiracy to commit murder. A third defendant, Luke Austin Lane, 21, of Silver Creek, remains in the Floyd County Jail with them and is facing the same charges. Lane is also seeking bond, court records show, though his hearing had not been scheduled as of Friday.
The Base, Johnson said, is focused on inciting a race war and bringing about a white ethno-state. Helterbrand discussed his willingness to kill the unnamed Bartow couple’s child, and the defendants talked about burning down the couple’s home, Johnson added.
Wearing orange jail uniforms, Helterbrand and Kaderli were led into the courtroom in shackles. They watched the proceedings impassively without speaking. At one point, Kaderli smiled at his mother as she testified in favor of his release on bond.
“Basically, they are domestic terrorists and that is why we are here,” Johnson said. “The purpose of the Base is to kill people. They are a violence extremist group.”
Helterbrand’s attorney, Radford Bunker, responded that Johnson was attempting to “inflame the passion of the court.” Helterbrand, Bunker said, worked in the information technology industry, has no felony convictions and has supportive parents in St. Louis, who are willing to post bond for him and let him live with them.
“This may be multi-state and may involve federal charges as well as state charges,” Bunker said. “He is going to need significant time with his attorneys in multiple jurisdictions. We think the best way to guarantee justice in this case is to allow him bond.”
Before denying bond for Helterbrand and Kaderli, Floyd Superior Court Judge John Niedrach asked Johnson why the case isn’t in federal court, given that the FBI led the investigation and infiltrated the Base in Georgia.
Johnson responded: “The FBI worked in conjunction with the DA’s office.”
Kaderli’s attorney, John Lovell, seized on the same issue.
“I am just here as a matter of common sense to say that when there is big terrorism case, the United States of America takes it — the FBI takes it,” he said.
Leigh Patterson, the district attorney for Floyd County, and the FBI declined to comment Friday. The U.S. attorney’s office in Atlanta did not respond to requests for comment.
Lovell said Kaderli — who was studying welding at Gwinnett Technical College — had never been arrested before and is not a risk of fleeing, adding he has “lot of redeeming value and we would like to see more of that drawn out of him.”
“The state talks about this being a group that is all about terror and violence, but yet we don’t have one overt act of violence,” Lovell said. “Not one.”
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