Michael John Helterbrand, a member of the neo-Nazi terror group The Base, was sentenced Wednesday to 20 years in prison for his role in a conspiracy to murder a Bartow County couple.
Local police and the FBI arrested Helterbrand, 27, in January 2020 along with co-defendants Jacob Oliver Kaderli, 21, and Luke Austin Lane, 23, and charged them with plotting to murder the couple because they suspected them of being in a local antifascist activist group.
The three men had been scheduled for trial later this month when Helterbrand changed course and decided to plead guilty Wednesday. Plea hearings for Lane and Kaderli are scheduled for Friday.
At Helterbrand’s sentencing, Assistant District Attorney Emily Johnson described how Helterbrand plotted to raid the couple’s home and how he and his co-defendants would cover their tracks after killing them. Helterbrand bought “brass catchers” to carry spent ammunition cases, she said, and equipment to make a homemade silencer.
He even said he would not hesitate to kill any children who might have been living in the house, Johnson told the court.
“He said he was excited and he said, ‘This is what I have been fantasizing about for two years,’” she said.
The Base is a small but violent extremist group that seeks to use terroristic acts to bring about the downfall of society and establish a white ethno-state. The three men and other members of the local Base cell met and conducted paramilitary training in the summer and fall of 2019 at Lane’s remote property in Silver Creek, a rural community near Rome, court records state.
According to police affidavits and court testimony, it was during this training that Helterbrand, Lane and Kaderli began discussing plans to assassinate the couple, along with other activists and members of the news media.
The prosecution’s detailed understanding of the plot came from an undercover police officer who infiltrated the group as they plotted. The men were arrested before they could carry out the attack, although according to court records, they conducted surveillance and had made practice runs through the couple’s quiet subdivision outside of Cartersville.
The intended target of the plot, appearing in court via teleconference, asked Judge John E. Niedrach to impose a tough sentence.
“This man has doubled down on a broken, hateful, disgusting worldview,” he said. “I’m asking the court to not go light on white supremacy anymore.”
Helterbrand, who also appeared in court via teleconference, shook his head and made inaudible remarks, pointing his finger at the camera before Niedrach restored order.
The judge described the plot as a “very shocking case.”
“I wish you the best and hope you can recover. I know you have been through a lot,” he told the victim.
All three defendants have been held without bond since their arrest. While in jail, Helterbrand joined a prison gang known as the Ghostface Gangsters and was charged with taking part in a brutal assault on another prisoner. Helterbrand leaned toward the camera to show the large “Pale Face” tattoo on his forehead.
“That means he is more of an enforcer,” Johnson said of the tattoo.
Along with the charges associated with the murder plot, Helterbrand also pleaded guilty to the charges related to his crimes inside the jail. His plea deal includes a ban from Floyd and Bartow counties and a lifetime protective order against the Bartow couple.
The arrest of the Georgia Base cell made national news and came as authorities arrested members of The Base in Maryland who were plotting to open fire on a pro-gun rally at the Virginia Capitol in Richmond in an attempt to create chaos. A member of that Base cell, former Canadian Armed Forces Reservist Patrik Mathews, spent months hiding out on Lane’s property, having fled his home in Winnipeg after a local journalist published a story exposing him as a Base recruiter.
Mathews and a co-defendant pleaded guilty in federal court in Maryland last month, with each receiving nine-year sentences.
The arrests were damaging to The Base’s recruiting efforts, and last year the British newspaper The Guardian revealed the founder’s to be U.S.-born Rinaldo Nazzaro, who was living at the time in St. Petersburg, Russia. In recent months, The Base has stepped up its recruiting via the social media app Telegram.
In an email to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a member of The Base described the Rome defendants as “persecuted political prisoners.”