By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN
SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — A Maryland man linked by the FBI to a white supremacist group and arrested ahead of a gun rights rally in Virginia must remain in federal custody while he awaits trial, a judge ruled Tuesday.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Boardman refused to set bond for Brian Mark Lemley Jr., who was indicted on gun-related charges. A different magistrate judge previously refused to set bond for two other men who were arrested in January on related charges.
Federal authorities have said the three men were members of a white supremacist organization called The Base. A Justice Department prosecutor has said the group’s goal was to accelerate the overthrow of the U.S. government and replace it with a white supremacist regime.
Lemley, 34, and fellow Base member Patrik Mathews, 27, discussed “the planning of violence” at a gun rights rally in Richmond, Virginia, in January, prosecutors said in a court filing. A closed-circuit television camera and microphone installed by investigators in a Delaware home captured Lemley talking about using a thermal imaging scope affixed to his rifle to ambush unsuspecting civilians and police officers, prosecutors said.
“I need to claim my first victim,” Lemley said on Dec. 23, according to prosecutors.
Boardman said prosecutors had presented “very troubling evidence” about Lemley’s actions and words that show he would be a danger to the community if he was released. “The weight of the evidence appears to be very strong,” she said during a hearing conducted by video conference because of coronavirus concerns.
Defense attorney Ned Smock cited the virus, and Lemley’s risk of infection in jail, as one of the reasons for freeing his client and letting him live with his sister, a nurse. He also argued that none of the statements recorded by the FBI proved Lemley and Mathews had concrete plans to carry out an attack.
“That’s all repugnant. No doubt about it. But that’s not a crime,” Smock said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Windom said Lemley’s violent rhetoric wasn’t idle talk.
“He was planning to kill people,” the prosecutor said. “He wanted to spark a race war.”
Lemley, of Elkton, Maryland, had waived his right to an immediate detention hearing after making his initial court appearance Jan. 16. He and Mathews, a 27-year-old former Canadian Armed Forces reservist, separately pleaded not guilty to charges including transporting a firearm and ammunition with the intent to commit a felony.
William Garfield Bilbrough IV, 19, of Denton, Maryland, pleaded not guilty to charges that he helped transport and harbor Mathews, who is accused of illegally entering the U.S. from Canada.
Lemley was a member of a different white nationalist, neo-Confederate organization before he joined The Base last year, according to a filing from prosecutors. In encrypted online chats, Base members discussed what would happen if law enforcement tried to disrupt their activities, the filing says.
“For example, in September 2019, in a discussion with other Base members, Lemley wrote, ‘Hey mr fed’ and ‘I spent about 35% of my day daydreaming about killing you today.’ Lemley went on to write, ‘I day dream about killing so much that I frequently walk in the wront (sic) directions for extended periods of time at work,'” prosecutors wrote.
FBI agents arrested Mathews, Lemley and Bilbrough as part of a broader investigation of The Base. Authorities in Georgia and Wisconsin also arrested four other men linked to the group.
Smock said his client, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq before his honorable discharge in 2007, has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder.
He had a traumatic childhood but now has “strong family support,” the defense attorney said.