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MI Supreme Court refuses terrorism sentence appeal

Wide exterior shot of state Supreme Court building
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

The Michigan Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal of a leader of a white supremacist group who tried to reverse his agreement to a plea bargain.

Justen Watkins was a leader of “The Base.” The group’s activities included breaking into two former corrections facilities to engage in firearms training. Watkins’ plea deal was part of a plea bargain related to a 2019 incident where he and another man intimidated a family in Dexter in Washtenaw County. The plea deal also wrapped up charges filed in Tuscola County.

Watkins pleaded guilty to multiple charges, which he did not deny in the appeal, but he tried to back out of the plea deal.

The Michigan Court of Appeals upheld the sentence in a decision held last year that determined the agreement between Watkins, the prosecutor, and the judge was clear and unambiguous.

Attorney General Dana Nessel cheered the Supreme Court order refusing the case.

“They had a manual. They had uniforms. They organized. They were training,” she told Michigan Public Radio. “We shouldn’t have to wait until you have a mass shooting or explosives detonated at a church or a mall or a Fourth of July parade to hold people accountable.”

An attorney for Watkins did not reply to a request for comment.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.