A North Carolina neo-Nazi who has been active over the past two years with the Proud Boys and Patriot Front has been released from custody after pleading guilty to a felony possession of a firearm and ammunition.
Michael Alan Jones, 24, helped recruit for the Base, a neo-Nazi terror network whose members have been involved in an assassination plot, vandalism against a synagogue, and terrorizing a family in their home. After joining the Base in the fall of 2019, Jones was actively involved with the Proud Boys and Patriot Front, including storming the US Capitol with the former and organizing radio communications for a flash rally in Washington, DC with the latter. Earlier this year, he was arrested while driving a 2006 Nissan Sentra loaded with firearms and other weapons outside of Rochester, NY, leading to the federal charge for which he pleaded guilty on Dec. 9.
As part of the plea agreement, the government is agreeing to a downward adjustment of sentencing guidelines, in consideration of Jones’ acceptance of responsibility for the firearms violation. As a result of the downward adjustment, Jones eventual sentence could be reduced from 10 years down to a range of 24 to 30 months in prison, and his fine could be reduced from $250,000 down to a range of $10,000 to $95,000. Jones’ sentencing is scheduled for May 2023.
During Jones’ plea hearing in federal court in Rochester on Dec. 9, Judge David Larimer ordered Jones released to home detention. The conditions of release require Jones to report to pretrial services, and refrain from possessing firearms. The home detention order allows exceptions for employment, education, religious services, medical treatment, and attorney visits. He is allowed to travel to Maryland and the Western District of New York for court. The conditions include no restrictions on access or use of the internet.
Jones was hospitalized in Rochester in late November, and his lawyer told the court that his leg was severely infected and that doctors warned they might have to amputate.
A separate order signed by Judge Larimer indicates that he directed Jones “to return to Haw River, North Carolina to reside with his parents as part of his release conditions.” Larimer noted that Jones had obtained a plane ticket, while ordering him to go directly to the airport in Rochester, and ordering the Transportation Security Administration to allow him to proceed through security so he could fly home to North Carolina.
Raw Story has recently learned that Jones prolifically recruited online for the Base and that he participated in a vetting interview for a prospect in late 2019 and 2021. And, as previously reported by Raw Story, Jones used an anonymous Telegram channel to encourage followers to join the Base in late 2021, around the time he was actively involved with Patriot Front. It remains unclear whether any of Jones’ fellow members in Patriot Front — a white supremacist group that is on the receiving end of a lawsuit for alleged civil rights violations for vandalizing a monument honoring the African-American tennis player Arthur Ashe — were aware that he was also involved with the Base.
Court documents for the federal charge for which Jones awaits sentencing include no mention of his involvement with the Base, the Proud Boys or Patriot Front.
In a 45-minute vetting interview recorded by an infiltrator in August 2019 and leaked to Raw Story, Jones described himself to the Base founder Rinaldo Nazzaro as a “national socialist.” He said he was radicalized while attending high school in North Carolina, explaining that “the best way to red-pill someone on minorities is to put them in close proximity with minorities.”
Jones' vetting interview and his application to the Base, along with two vetting interviews for another prospect, were provided to Raw Story by the White Rose Society, an antifascist research collective in Australia.
After he was forced to leave basic training in the Army to return to North Carolina to deal with criminal charges stemming from having sex with underage girls while he was in high school, Jones said he cofounded a white power group called EuroDawn. Jones told Nazzaro that he learned about the Base because a few of the members of EuroDawn claimed to be members of the Base. At the time of his vetting interview, Jones was also active on iFunny, a social-media app designed to share memes that has been identified as a recruitment pipeline for the Base.
Two weeks prior to Jones’ vetting interview with the Base, an 18-year-old man in Ohio had been arrested by the FBI for posting “shoot every federal agent on sight” while also expressing support for “bombing Planned Parenthood” and “killing abortionists.” When Olsen was arrested, authorities seized 10,000 rounds of ammunition and 25 guns from his father’s house.
Following up on a public complaint, the FBI began monitoring Justin Olsen’s iFunny account in February 2019 and watched him amass about 4,400 subscribers, according to court documents. A couple of months later, according to an FBI agent who testified at his detention hearing, Olsen posted a link from his iFunny account to a private chat on the gaming platform Discord, where he made the “shoot every federal agent on sight” comment.
Considering Jones’ activity on iFunny, Nazzaro appears to have been concerned, at least initially, that he could be compromised.
“We’re you connected to that guy that got rolled up or any of his immediate cohorts?” Nazzaro asked Jones during the Aug. 26, 2019 vetting interview.
Jones replied that he was familiar with Olsen and his circle but that he “didn’t talk to any of them personally” or “know them personally.” Jones went on to say in his vetting interview: “I feel that they should have been a lot more intelligent with their wording. I feel like they should, even if it’s f---ed up for them to have been busted up for that, they sure as hell didn’t help their hand. Tight lips and all that. Loose lips sink ships. Even if you’re not planning on doing something, going into that much detail about what you could do is setting yourself up for failure.”
Whatever reservations Nazzaro might have had about Jones’ potential exposure, he apparently approved him for membership, because by January 2020, Jones was participating in a vetting call for another prospect — a man named “Andrew Jones” who was actively serving in the Marine Corps at the time. By that time, Michael Jones had earned sufficient trust within the network that Nazzaro and another member mentioned that he would be tasked with meeting Andrew Jones in person to continue his vetting.
After Michael Jones was approved to join the Base, he put his experience on iFunny to work for the network. In a November 2019 story, Vice reported that Jones, posting under his nickname MemeMercenary, was “one of the more active recruiters for the Base.” The outlet reported: “Like fellow recruiters, many of the posts he puts up feature an email or QR code that prompts users to get in touch with the group to initiate the vetting phase. MemeMercenary, who had almost 5,000 followers at the time of his removal, has been featured 47 times on iFunny, meaning his work has been hand-selected by moderators to land on the front page of the website.”
Andrew Jones went through a preliminary interview in mid-October 2019. At the time, he was in the process of moving from Arizona to Virginia, and at Nazzaro’s suggestion, a second interview was scheduled for Jan. 6, 2020, after he had completed the move. During his first interview, Andrew Jones said he was embarrassed to learn that he found out about the Base from iFunny.
“We have a steady stream of applicants from iFunny, so it’s not really that unusual, actually,” an unidentified member said in response. “We have a few guys that are pretty active there recruiting.”
During Michael Jones’ vetting interview, Nazzaro quizzed him on what skills and assets he could bring to the Base. Jones responded that he was “fairly handy with a rifle,” having become an expert marksman during his four months of basic training, but he acknowledged that his survivalism skills were limited. At Nazzaro’s prodding, Jones also touted his organizational skills as a cofounder of Euro Dawn and communication experience from coordinating with media outlets as an ROTC member at Western Alamance High School.
During the first vetting interview with Andrew Jones, Nazzaro underscored the benefit that someone even with as limited experience as Michael Jones could bring to the network.
“I mean, there’s guys who don’t have really any skills and experience in this stuff,” Nazzaro said. “They want to learn. And so, they contribute through like recruiting or just showing up with their enthusiasm and being there and participating. I mean, that’s a huge contribution to morale.”
Michael Jones’ written application, comprised of an email exchange conducted in the leadup to his interview, includes a description of the Base’s objectives at the time. The email from the Base discloses an “immediate goal” of “establishing small 2-3 man cells in as many initial locations as possible.” The email emphasizes that it is “incumbent upon each participant to contribute to network development through recruiting and promoting as much as possible both online and in real life.”
But the Base’s leadership made it clear that it wouldn’t tolerate members who were only interested in online participation. Members were expected to meet up with one another in person.
“We expect guys to be active in real life,” Nazzaro told Michael Jones. “And if you’re not, then, you know, it will be addressed. We kick people out all the time for not showing up.”
In addition to asking prospects whether they had read Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler, one of the standard questions posed to prospects was whether they had read Siege, a text compiled from newsletters written by neo-Nazi James Mason from 1980 through 1986. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Mason had grown disenchanted with efforts to build large parties and organizations within the neo-Nazi movement. He argued “that only the full collapse of American democracy and society will bring conditions sufficient to bring order through Nazism.” Mason’s thesis is commonly known as accelerationism.
The Base similarly rejects electoral politics and movement building, and Nazzaro described the network in a Telegram message last week as a “radical vanguard.”
“We do have sort of like a political agenda that motivates what we’re doing,” Nazzaro told Andrew Jones during his first interview in October 2019. “We’re waiting, we’re anticipating, we’re hoping for a collapse — we’re hoping, we’re trying to prepare so that we’ll be able to take advantage of that chaos — we’re not just going to hunker down and wait for the storm to pass. We want the storm to continue. We want to be the storm. And any power vacuum that may emerge, even if it’s just on the local level, [we want] to be able to take advantage of that and capitalize on it. That’s our strategic goal.”
Another standard question posed to prospective members is whether they believe the masses can be “red-pilled,” or radicalized.
“Not the majority, no,” Michael Jones told Nazzaro during his vetting interview. “I think the masses want to follow whoever’s in power.”
That was the answer Nazzaro was looking for, and he prodded him to say more about how he would apply that worldview.
“Well, I still try to put information out there as best I can anonymously through certain pages online,” Jones said. “Because even if I don’t believe necessarily the majority of people can be brought around before it gets worse or before stuff changes, there are still enough people left who can be brought around that the attempt should be made.”
Nazzaro, who lives in Russia, responded to an inquiry from Raw Story about Michael Jones by saying, “The Base is not a terrorist organization or a neo-Nazi group. The Base is a survivalism and self-defense network.” (The Canadian government added the Base, along with the Proud Boys, to its list of terrorist entities last year.)
Asked specifically whether Jones is currently active with the Base, Nazzaro wrote to Raw Story on Monday: “My additional comment is f--- you.”
The FBI has previously declined to comment on Jones, and Assistant US Attorney Charles Moynihan, the lead prosecutor in Jones’ case, did not respond to a voicemail and email from Raw Story for this story last week.
After he participated in Andrew Jones’ Jan. 6, 2020 vetting call, Michael Jones’ activity with the Base beyond urging his followers to join the network in September 2021 remains unknown.
In January 2020, the Base suffered from a series of high-profile arrests. Three members based in Maryland, including a Canadian army reservist, were arrested shortly before a Jan. 20, 2020 Second Amendment rally in Richmond, Va., at which they had discussed plans to carry out an ambush. A member in Wisconsin was arrested on Jan. 17 after vandalizing a synagogue in Racine. Around the same time, three members in Georgia were arrested and accused of plotting to murder an antifascist couple.
By the summer of 2020, the Base had been significantly disrupted by a law enforcement crackdown. Today, at least a dozen members have been convicted on state and federal charges, with at least eight serving active prison sentences.
Matthew Kriner, a senior researcher at the Center on Terrorism, Extremism and Counterterrorism at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, told Raw Story that Jones’ migration from the Base to other extremist organizations reflects “the fact that accelerationist groups aren’t meant to have hard boundaries.” He added, “They’re constantly dissolving and reconstituting by design. So, it’s entirely reasonable to believe he might have been in and out of contact with the people who have been a part of the Base, while also consistently being involved with other groups or brands like Patriot Front.”
In August 2020, as the right-wing backlash against the Movement for Black Lives shifted into electoral support for Donald Trump, Michael Jones joined a march that brought the Proud Boys together with QAnon supporters in Fayetteville, NC. Proud Boys leaders Jeremy Bertino and Charles Donohoe were present at that rally. Since that time, Bertino and Donohoe have pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges for their part in the Jan. 6 assault on the US Capitol.
Jones was also present at a Proud Boys rally in Raleigh, NC on Nov. 28, 2020, at which Bertino told left-wing counter-protesters: “We will exterminate you.” The Raleigh gathering set the stage for a large pro-Trump rally in Washington, DC on Dec. 12 that Jones also attended.
On Jan. 6, 2021, Jones marched with the Proud Boys to the US Capitol, and can be seen near Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola during a clash with the police on the West Plaza before Pezzola used a stolen police riot shield to break out a window in the Capitol, enabling the first breach of the building. Jones was arrested later on Jan. 6 by DC Metropolitan police and cited with a curfew violation.
Michael Jones, wearing a black hoodie, is seen with Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola at the West Plaza outside the US Capitol. (courtesy jan6attack.com)
As the federal investigation into the Jan. 6 attack netted dozens of Proud Boys arrests, Patriot Front — a group with a more explicit white supremacist ideology — became increasingly assertive. Posting under the codename “Adam NC,” Jones first appears in private chats on a Patriot Front server that was leaked to the media collective Unicorn Riot, on Nov. 13, 2021. While he was active with Patriot Front, Jones helped drop banners promoting the organization’s white supremacist ideology in Columbia and Greenville, SC, and cased a location in Sylva, NC as part of an apparent plan to vandalize a statue of the abolitionist leader Harriet Tubman. He also coordinated radio communications for Patriot Front’s high-profile march in Washington, DC in December 2021.
Kriner said Jones’ involvement with the Proud Boys and Patriot Front following his recruitment to the Base is consistent with the terror network’s aims to expand its reach.
“They still actively try to get involved with other networks in terms of not just relying on themselves as the only means of mobilizing,” Kriner said. “They’re consistently looking for additional opportunities to hasten collapse. Utilizing preexisting groups like the Proud Boys and Patriot Front helps them do that. When they expose them to more extreme content, they can steer them in a way that expands their recruitment and the other groups towards acting in a way that’s more favorable to accelerationism as a whole.”