A 20-year-old Eastern Shore man pleaded guilty and was sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court to five years in prison for his connection to a neo-Nazi plot to disrupt a Virginia rally with violence earlier this year.
William Bilbrough IV, of Denton, pleaded guilty to two counts of transporting and harboring an alien, related to his helping a Canadian military reservist and neo-Nazi recruiter who crossed illegally into the U.S. to carry out activities with the group.
Federal prosecutors said the men were members of “The Base,” a white supremacist group that sought to create a white ethnostate - a place where only white people would live - and carry out violence against minorities, specifically Blacks and Jews.
Since 2018, prosecutors said Tuesday, members of The Base have been building a coalition of white supremacist groups in the U.S. and abroad, including seeking out people with military or explosives experience. They held firearms and para-military training in Georgia as well as another state, prosecutors said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Patrick Windom said the group sought the “violent overthrow of the United States as we know it.”
Defense attorneys had previously raised concerns that Bilbrough was being prosecuted for ideology. But U.S. District Court Judge Theodore Chuang said Bilbrough had knowledge of crimes the group was planning to carry out, and imposed a prison term above the sentencing guidelines.
“Regardless of the viewpoints of The Base and its members, the law cannot tolerate the kind of violence that you were facilitating,” Chuang said.
A reporter for the Winnipeg Free-Press infiltrated the group and identified Patrik Mathews as one of its members, causing him to flee into Michigan in August 2019, where he was picked up by Bilbrough and Brian Lemley, a former cavalry soldier in the United States Army who is a Delaware resident.
Mathews and Lemley have pleaded not guilty and their cases are pending.
Prosecutors said the group used encrypted chat rooms to communicate, after vetting members through an application process. The FBI was able to infiltrate the group with an undercover employee, and installed a camera inside Lemley’s home that recorded conversations in which they discussed plans to create havoc in Virginia at a gun rights rally.
Bilbrough’s attorney had previously argued that while his client was “engaged in conversations that were both disturbing and radically offensive,” . . . our Constitution protects our citizens’ rights to be disgusting and racially insensitive.”
“The only evidence that the government has presented is that he drove a car and was a passenger in a car with a person who crossed into the United States without authorization, that he ‘talked’ about things – that he never did, nor did he take any affirmative action to do and that he participated in shooting firearms in a lawful manner at a lawful location,” his attorneys wrote in April.
On Tuesday, they conceded that Bilbrough knew Mathews’ intent to commit violence when he had entered the country. They told Chuang that Bilbrough had disassociated himself from The Base before his arrest, and was not part of the plan to commit violence in Virginia. They noted he is younger than his co-defendants.
“This really is a tragic case from our perspective,” said defense attorney Megan E. Coleman.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.