As their neighbours celebrated the birth of the Messiah on Christmas Day 2019, Patrik Mathews — a disgraced Canadian army reservist on the run from U.S. law enforcement — and Brian Lemley Jr., an American combat veteran, were plotting the resurrection of a "saint."
The two men were holed up in a small apartment in Newark, Del., on a quiet, sprawling compound that features thick patches of trees and winding roads, discussing what they wanted for Christmas.
Whereas their neighbours were surrounded by holiday decorations and wrapped presents under pine-needle trees, Mathews and Lemley had filled their apartment with an assault rifle, more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition, a gas mask and enough food for several months.
More than anything, the two men wanted to carry out an action so brazen and unlikely to succeed it would make them "immortal" in the eyes of the neo-Nazi movement to which they belonged.
They wanted to break Dylann Roof out of prison.
"There are guard towers. Let’s see, how many guard towers? One, two, three, four, five, six, seven," Mathews told Lemley, as he looked at satellite imagery of the Terre Haute maximum-security prison in Indiana.
That’s where Roof, 27, is awaiting execution for murdering nine Black parishioners during a Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., on June 17, 2015. At the time, he was a 21-year-old neo-Nazi.
After the bloody rampage, Roof became one of the "saints" — the collection of mass murderers, terrorists and serial killers that a certain brand of white supremacists, Mathews and Lemley among them, idolize and seek to imitate.
"We gotta bust him out of prison. That’s something there I think is a serious task. We should just go and just break out every f---king saint. Can you imagine?.... the Base would be known as the guys who broke out Dylann Roof," Mathews said.
As outlandish as the plot may seem from the outside, it was precisely what Roof had in mind when he told a court psychologist that his death sentence wouldn’t be carried out because "white nationalists would free him from prison after an impending race war."
Defence attorneys would point to this "delusion" when appealing his death sentence, arguing Roof — a high school dropout who struggled with mental illness — was too "disconnected from reality" to represent himself during the penalty phase of his trial.
"What’s the execution date?" Lemley asked.
"I don’t think we have much time," Mathews said.
"Personally, I think you have a combination of snipers placed out, just f---king dropping the guards in the towers.... There’s a chance that I could ‘snip snip snap snap’ several guards before anybody even sounded an alarm," Lemley said.
Mathews and Lemley — members of a violent neo-Nazi paramilitary group called the Base — had recently manufactured a long-range assault rifle, equipped with thermal imaging, in their shared apartment.
Lemley, a former cavalry scout in the U.S. army who served a tour of duty in Iraq, boasted of his ability to repeatedly hit a target in a tight grouping of an inch-and-a-half at 300 yards.
These are just some of the disturbing new details released in a series of court documents recently submitted to the United States District Court for the District of Maryland where prosecutors are asking for Mathews, 29, and Lemley, 35, to be sentenced to 25 years in federal prison.
Mathews went on the run in August 2019 following an undercover investigation by the Winnipeg Free Press, which exposed him as an active combat engineer in the Canadian military moonlighting as a neo-Nazi recruiter.
Soon after being exposed, Mathews’ Beausejour home was raided by the RCMP, where police found a "handwritten list of mass shootings, which included the year, number of dead, number of wounded, (and) ethnicity of the shooter," the newly released court records show.
He then illegally fled to the U.S., where he linked up with neo-Nazi comrades who provided him safe harbour and helped him travel to a paramilitary training camp in rural Georgia.
Mathews and Lemley pleaded guilty to various offences in June, following an undercover operation by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau for Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
They are scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 28. In total, six members of the Base were arrested during a nationwide crackdown in January 2020, including three men in Georgia accused of a double-murder plot.
There is no parole in the U.S. federal prison system; if a 25-year sentence is handed down, Mathews and Lemley will be 54 and 60, respectively, when released. As an illegal alien, Mathews would then be transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation.
The recently released court records paint a chilling portrait of two violent fanatics whose hatred extended to anyone who didn’t look like them: male and white.
Closed-circuit TV footage and a microphone secretly installed in Mathews’ and Lemley’s Delaware apartment — where the two men prepped for the race war they believed was on the horizon and stockpiled weapons, ammunition and supplies — led to 1,136 pages of transcripts.
Mathews repeatedly rants about killing racial and religious minorities — particularly Jews and Blacks — and claims that inter-racial relationships should be punished with death. He discusses concerns over immigration to rural Canada and racial differences in IQ.
The two men fantasized about killing politicians, law-enforcement officers and journalists; of stripping women of the right to drive and vote; and of creating a white homeland in North America through a mixture of violent ethnic cleansing and deportations.
"We need to go back to the days of f---king decimating Blacks and getting rid of them where they stand. If you see a bunch of Blacks sitting on some corner you f---king shoot them," Mathews said.
"We’ll give them the bad guy. We will give them white-supremacist terrorists, if that’s what they want. Give them what they want. Give them what they deserve."
“We’ll give them the bad guy. We will give them white–supremacist terrorists, if that’s what they want. Give them what they want. Give them what they deserve.” – Patrik Mathews
In page after page of transcripts, their language is violent, antisemitic, racist and misogynistic.
Homegrown hate: Coverage of a neo-Nazi recruiter in WinnipegClick to Expand
Posted: 11:56 AM Sep. 13, 2019
Read Ryan Thorpe's story on infiltrating a neo-Nazi paramilitary group, and the Free Press' follow-up coverage.
Prosecutors allege the CCTV evidence, "at minimum," demonstrates Mathews and Lemley "repeatedly confirmed on tape" they plotted to kill a federal employee, damage communication lines, damage an energy facility, damage rail lines and commit arson or bombing.
Following a summer spent attending a Base training camp — known in neo-Nazi circles as a "hate camp" — in the fall of 2019, Mathews and Lemley began turning their focus towards a pro-gun rights rally in Richmond, Va., scheduled for Jan. 20, 2020.
Democrats had recently taken over Virginia’s state government and proposed a sweeping slate of gun-control bills, enraging pro-Second Amendment advocates.
Mathews and Lemley focused on the rally — expected to attract tens of thousands — as the moment to strike.
“You need an atrocity to make people angry enough to get serious. Open fire on the crowd.” – Brian Lemley
"It’s like the end of the world," Lemley said, when reviewing the proposed gun-control measures, which included things such as universal background checks, red flag laws and the banning of firearms inside the state capitol.
Mathews discussed the necessity of pitting certain groups in society against one another in an effort to increase political polarization. At one point, Lemley was more explicit: "You need an atrocity to make people angry enough to get serious. Open fire on the crowd."
The CCTV transcripts show that Mathews discussed the possibility of assassinating the Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates — Eileen Filler-Corn, the first woman and Jewish person to hold that role — after he obtained her address on the Internet.
When Mathews and Lemley looked up satellite imagery of her home and realized it wouldn’t be an ideal location for a sniper attack, they discussed the possibility of identifying her route to work and striking then.
Mathews believed Filler-Corn’s death would "accelerate their gun-control agenda," which would hopefully increase political polarization and radicalize pro-gun rights activists. He seemed particularly upset that Filler-Corn was openly Jewish.
Details of the assassination plot only recently came to light through court records.
"It’s now or never; like, if we wait, it’s only gonna get worse. The writing is on the wall. We know what they’re doing to us. The victory is only less likely the longer we wait. We have to act. We must act now." – Brian Lemley
At one point, the two men discussed their Virginia plans with an undercover FBI agent, who they believed was a fellow member of the Base.
"It’s now or never; like, if we wait, it’s only gonna get worse. The writing is on the wall. We know what they’re doing to us. The victory is only less likely the longer we wait. We have to act. We must act now," Lemley said, during a conversation with Mathews and the undercover agent.
"It’s just that we can’t live with ourselves if we don’t get somebody’s blood on our hands."
It was the men’s planning in the leadup to the Virginia rally, which saw Gov. Ralph Northam declare a state of emergency in an effort to avoid a repeat of the bloody and deadly 2017 Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Va., that led the FBI to move in with arrests on Jan. 16, 2020.
Mathews and Lemley have been in custody ever since. The night before they were arrested, the men discussed the possibility of going to prison for their neo-Nazi activities.
"All I’m saying is, (we are) going to have a jail sentence, at minimum. So the question is, if we’re going to go to jail anyway, might as well go to jail for something good. Might as well do some damage to the system," Mathews said.
"You realize, like, they’re just gonna call us terrorists."
Mathews and Lemley have two court hearings scheduled for the final week of October. It is the first time they will be back in court since pleading guilty on June 11.
Lemley pleaded guilty to, among other charges, conspiracy to transport an illegal alien, disposing of a firearm and ammunition to an illegal alien, transporting a firearm and ammunition interstate with intent to commit a felony and obstruction of justice.
Mathews pleaded guilty to transporting a firearm and ammunition interstate with intent to commit a felony, obstruction of justice, and two counts of being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm and ammunition.
The sentencing documents submitted by their defence attorneys have been sealed and are not publicly available.
During the Oct. 25 hearing, the prosecution will argue for stiff sentences for both men on the basis that their offences constituted hate crimes and terrorism. The defence, meanwhile, will ask for more lenient sentences.
“Is he released? Tell me he’s not released.” – Former Beausejour neighour
The outcome of that hearing will significantly impact the amount of time Mathews and Lemley spend behind bars in a U.S. federal prison. Four days later, they will be back in court for sentencing.
During the summer, the Free Press spent time in Beausejour, where Mathews owned a small home on a quiet street prior to fleeing the country. There was a legal document from a bank posted to the front door.
One neighbour, who asked not to be named, said she wouldn’t be comfortable with Mathews ever returning to that house. During a previous court hearing, Mathews said that if his charges in the U.S. were dealt with, his intention would be to return home to Beausejour.
"Is he released? Tell me he’s not released," she said as a Free Press reporter and CBC podcast producer approached.
The neighbour said she had been disturbed by U.S. court records that indicated Mathews had talked about booby-trapping his home with bombs when the RCMP conducted a raid on Aug. 19, 2019. As a combat engineer in the Canadian military, Mathews had been trained in the use of explosives.
"It would be hard for me to forget that… I’d be scared (if he ever came back). I truly would be," she said. "How can I say this diplomatically? He made his bed, so he should be spending time in prison."
The prosecutors were more blunt in their sentencing request: "The defendants pose a severe risk to public safety. They are domestic terrorists and should be sentenced accordingly."
Mathews will learn his fate Oct. 28, exactly 801 days from the morning the Free Press exposed him, following a month-long undercover investigation into a neo-Nazi recruitment campaign in Winnipeg.
What began with recruitment posters for his cause in Winnipeg will end with a prison sentence ordered in Greenbelt, Md.
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.