Patrik Mathews — a former Manitoba army reservist and an alleged recruiter for a neo-Nazi group — is facing new charges in what is described as the ritual beheading of an animal during a paramilitary training camp in the U.S. state of Georgia.
In a 2020 hearing, Floyd County prosecutors said the animal — which they identified as a ram — was stolen from a nearby farm and beheaded during a meeting organized by The Base, a white supremacist organization, in October 2019, according to a report by The Associated Press.
Federal prosecutors have said it was a goat. They’ve said the men stole the animal and attempted unsuccessfully to kill it with a knife, eventually shooting it to death and cutting off its head in what prosecutors have described as a “pagan ritual sacrifice.”
The Rome News-Tribune, a daily newspaper in Rome, Ga., published a photo it said was obtained by The Guardian from an encrypted platform called Wire, which purportedly shows members of the group posing with the severed head of an animal.
The News-Tribune said prosecutors at a recent detention hearing in Maryland had indicated the photo was found on a group member’s phone.
At the end of the October 2019 training camp, which was attended by an undercover FBI agent, the members posed for photos, wearing tactical gear and balaclava hoods. The photos were later used for propaganda by The Base, which has espoused using violence to accelerate overthrowing the U.S. government.
Mathews is accused of acting as a recruiter for The Base while he was in Manitoba, before crossing into the U.S. in 2019.
He was arrested in Maryland in January 2020 and accused of illegally entering the U.S., and charged with two counts of being an alien in possession of a firearm and two counts of transporting a firearm across state lines with intent to commit a felony.
Three other men, all from north Georgia and linked by authorities to The Base, were already charged in relation to the killing of the animal in 2019 and other alleged crimes.
Luke Austin Lane, Michael Helterbrand and Jacob Kaderli have been held without bond for more than a year in the Floyd County jail, the Rome News-Tribune reported.
Mathews, originally from Beausejour, Man., is one of five additional men recently charged with aggravated cruelty to animals and livestock theft in connection with the 2019 incident. He was indicted on April 9, according to the Floyd County district attorney’s office.
Aggravated cruelty to animals involves malicious action causing death, torture or physical harm. It carries a sentence of one to five years in prison, along with a fine of up to $15,000. Livestock theft could see a maximum sentence of 10 years with a fine of up to $1,000.
This is the first time Mathews has definitively been tied to Lane, Helterbrand and Kaderli, who were arrested in Georgia days after Mathews’s own 2020 arrest.
At the time, an affidavit used to secure the arrest warrants described an unnamed member of The Base who “crossed into the United States illegally.” That detail and others in the affidavit match the description of Mathews from the FBI complaint against him filed in court.
The document suggested Mathews stayed with a member of the Georgia cell of The Base for months, but he was later reportedly characterized as “incompetent” and “stupid” and seen as a liability to the local group. The document suggests another group member wanted to kill Mathews.
Local police and the FBI believe the headquarters for The Base’s paramilitary training camp was a home and 105-acre tract of land in Silver Creek, Ga., owned by one of the other men charged.
Floyd County court officials say Mathews has not yet been arraigned in connection with the cruelty to animals and livestock theft charges.
He has pleaded not guilty to the other four charges he already faced. His lawyer, Joseph Balter, has previously said that in efforts to target members of The Base for a hate crime, investigators overstepped their bounds and violated his client’s right to free speech.
Balter could not be reached for comment on the newest charges against Mathews,.
In December 2020, a federal judge sentenced another member of The Base, William Garfield Bilbrough IV, to five years in prison after he pleaded guilty to two counts related to assisting Mathews. Bilbrough was charged with conspiring to transport and harbour Mathews.