Manitoba ex-reservist, neo-Nazi member Patrik Mathews gets nine years in prison
Former Canadian Armed Forces reservist Patrik Mathews was sentenced Thursday to nine years in prison for his role in what the FBI calls a violent plot to exploit escalating American social tensions and trigger a "race war" in the United States.
Mathews, 28, of Beausejour, Man., addressed District Court Judge Theodore Chuang directly prior to the decision, attributing his connection to the white supremacist group The Base as a colossal failure of judgment.
But Mathews never said he was sorry, Chuang observed as he handed down a sentence squarely between the 25 years sought by prosecutors and the 33 months his defence lawyers had been hoping for.
"I did not hear any particular apology to our country," the judge told the accused.
"To me, it's galling to think someone who's not an American would know better than us what kind of country we should have here, and decide that you hate America so much, you're going to infiltrate our country and tear it down."
Mathews pleaded guilty in June to weapons charges linked to the plot, as did his co-defendant, U.S. army veteran Brian Mark Lemley Jr., whose own separate sentencing hearing took place later in the day.
"In the letter you submitted, you didn't necessarily inspire confidence that you've changed to the point that there's no longer a threat of violence from you," Chuang said.
"Nevertheless, you have stated that all you want to do is go back to Canada and live a normal life. We all hope that is something that will happen once you serve this sentence."
Mathews was also sentenced to three years of supervised release upon completion of his prison term, at which point he'll be deported back to Canada. The defence petitioned the court to allow him to serve the sentence at a facility in Minnesota in order to be closer to family members in Manitoba.
"I got involved with the wrong people," he said, pushing his long brown hair back over his head.
He said he originally believed The Base to be a group committed to less extreme ideals, like immigration controls -- a perspective he acknowledged was "horrifically and disastrously wrong."
Chuang agreed earlier this week to the prosecution's request for a "terrorism enhancement," which would have allowed a sentence of up to 25 years behind bars. Defence counsel had argued for a sentence of less than three years, since the defendants ultimately never acted out their plan.
Prosecutors had argued Mathews' crimes were serious, but his motives even more so.
Since their arrests in January 2020, court has heard ample evidence of the pair talking in stark terms about killing federal officials, derailing trains and poisoning water supplies as part of a violent, disruptive scheme to exploit political and social tensions and trigger a race war in the United States.
At the centre of the plot was a massive rally by gun rights activists at the state capitol in Richmond., Va., where the two -- both members of the white supremacist group The Base -- were counting on clashes between police and tens of thousands of heavily armed protesters angry about proposed gun control measures.
Both men pleaded guilty in June to charges that included illegally transporting a firearm and obstruction of justice. A third co-defendant, William Garfield Bilbrough IV, pleaded guilty in December to helping Mathews enter the U.S. illegally. He was sentenced to five years in prison.
Earlier this week, their lawyers did their best to dismiss the scheme, which they conceded was hate-filled and disturbing, as little more than the idle chatter and braggadocio of a pair of deeply troubled and alienated young men with twisted beliefs and an affinity for guns.
However, Chuang said at a hearing on Monday that their conversations, text exchanges and planning -- much of it captured through FBI wiretaps, so-called "sneak-and-peek" warrants and the use of undercover officers -- comprised much more than just the "wishes and hopes and far-flung fantasies" of a pair of "wide-eyed neophytes."
Rather, they were "specific, serious and calculating in the actions they intended to perpetuate," the judge said.
Mathews' father, Glen, read a brief statement in open court Thursday in which he described his son as a troubled soul with a good heart whose childhood was a tortured ritual of schoolyard bullying and alienation.
"I always felt Pat had a strong moral compass," he said. "Right and wrong was always important, even though the definitions aren't very clear these days."
He said when his son's engagement began to disintegrate, "he found another interest that filled the void, unfortunately." And he dismissed the notion that his son could be a racist: "He's just too kind."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2021.