Extremist blog had named Bartow County man targeted in neo-Nazi plot

Blogger denies any connection to plot or extremist group.
A 2017 protest in Atlanta’s Woodruff Park included members of the antifascist group Atlanta Antifa. Extremists with a shadowy group known as The Base were arrested two weeks ago for plotting to kill a Bartow County couple whom they believed to be associated with the group.

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A 2017 protest in Atlanta’s Woodruff Park included members of the antifascist group Atlanta Antifa. Extremists with a shadowy group known as The Base were arrested two weeks ago for plotting to kill a Bartow County couple whom they believed to be associated with the group.

Three members of the neo-Nazi terror group The Base remain under arrest and in custody in Rome awaiting an official indictment on charges they planned to murder a Bartow County couple whom they believed to be antifascist activists.

The left-wing activist group Atlanta Antifascists released a statement last week stating the couple were not members of their group. But the statement pointed to a prominent white nationalist blog which had listed one of the two people targeted, posted photos of him and published links to his Bartow County business.

“White supremacists have no concern for accuracy when they publish enemy lists or kill lists — precisely because their goal is to terrorize entire communities,” the group said in a press release.

In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the blog’s author vehemently denied any connection with the plot or The Base, a relatively new white supremacist sect that encourages its members to help bring about the downfall of society by carrying out violent attacks.

“Atlanta Antifa are accusing me but I don’t know who these people are,” said blogger Brad Griffin. “It’s just suggestion and rumor.”

Griffin’s Alabama-based blog had published the man’s information in 2018 as part of a series of posts identifying left-wing activists that Griffin believed to be members of antifa groups. Griffin took the pages down from his blog a day after the Atlanta activist group accused him of providing the information needed to target the Bartow couple.

Griffin said he disagrees with so-called “accelerationist” groups like The Base that believe violent acts and rhetoric will accelerate the downfall of society or provide a race war. Griffin said his naming of Georgia activists was done in retaliation to similar tactics employed by antifa groups against right-wing extremists.

“These people target every right wing group in Georgia,” he said. “If they were going to dox us, then my response was I was going to figure out who they were.”

The AJC independently confirmed that the man listed on Griffin’s blog, who didn’t publicize his activism, was told by federal investigators he was the intended target of the alleged murder conspiracy, but there is no evidence connecting the blog to the plot. The AJC is not naming the resident for safety reasons.

The three accused Georgia members of The Base are charged with conspiring to commit murder and participation in a criminal gang. According to the affidavit of a federal agent that had infiltrated the group, the men targeted the couple out of a desire to kill antifascist activists.

Michael John Helterbrand, 25, of Dalton; Jacob Kaderli, 19, of Dacula; and Luke Austin Lane, 21, of Silver Creek have remained in custody at the Floyd County jail since their arrest two weeks ago. An attorney for Kaderli filed court papers last week seeking to get Kaderli released on bond from the Floyd County Jail.

Lane’s attorney, Emily Matson, said Floyd County District Attorney Leigh Patterson told her she would oppose releasing the three Georgia men on bond. Patterson declined comment.

Arrests in Maryland and Wisconsin

The arrests came as part of a sweep of members of The Base that included three more arrests in Maryland and another in Wisconsin.

Those arrested in Maryland included fugitive Patrick Jordan Mathews, a former combat engineer in the Canadian Army Reserve, who spent months last fall hiding out from authorities on Lane's Silver Creek property seven miles south of Rome.

Mathews was arrested in Maryland on weapons charges with two other Base members. Federal authorities have said the men planned to violently disrupt a pro-gun rally in Richmond, Va., and were transporting a homemade assault rifle and other equipment for that purpose.

The Base emerged as a new threat from the extreme right wing just within the past two years. The group encourages members to engage in paramilitary style training and survival preparation in advance of a predicted race war. Secretive and suspicious, the group is loosely organized in small, autonomous cells and communication is largely done on encrypted internet chats or in person.

But the recent arrests show the group is vulnerable to infiltration. An FBI agent worked for months inside the Georgia group, gathering information on its members and their plans. Agents also kept tabs on Mathews and his alleged co-conspirators by bugging their apartment and surveilling them as they drove to Georgia to train with Lane and his friends.

In November, federal agents in New Jersey arrested accused Base member Richard Tobin of civil rights crimes for his alleged role in a plot to target synagogues around the nation. In their sweep of alleged Base members in Georgia and Maryland, federal agents arrested Yousef Omar Barasneh of Oak Creek, Wisc., and charged him with vandalizing a synagogue in nearby Racine.

Court records claim that Barasneh also came to Georgia last fall to train with Lane and other Base members.

Suspected leader reportedly in Russia

In the wake of the arrests, London-based newspaper The Guardian published an investigative report exposing Rinaldo Nazzaro, 46, as the founder of The Base. Nazzaro, who had previously gone by various pseudonyms, is an American citizen but the newspaper reported evidence that he is currently living in Russia.

Recent events appear to have damaged The Base’s reputation among white supremacists, but Joshua Fisher-Birch, a researcher with the Counter Extremism Project, said it is too early to say what effect it will have on the group’s radicalized members.

“There are still other cells out there,” he said. “But they’ve been very quiet.”

Fisher-Birch said the arrests and the revelations about Nazzaro have “tarnished the brand” and raised fears among its already paranoid following about the dangers of recruiting members and plotting violence. The arrests in Georgia are both worrying and embarrassing for the group, he said.

“That the (Georgia) group was infiltrated makes it seem like a big risk,” he said. “I don’t think any of those guys have been shown in a positive way. They will be seen as a sort of cautionary tale.”

Staff writer Jeremy Redmon contributed to this report.

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