Three North Georgia men accused of belonging to a white supremacist group and of plotting the murder of a Bartow County couple were denied bond Thursday after citing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
Floyd County Superior Court Chief Judge Bryant Durham rejected their requests after a hearing in which the defendants were patched in by video from the county jail.
The men — Michael Helterbrand, 25, of Dalton; Jacob Kaderli, 19, of Dacula; and Luke Lane, 21, of Silver Creek — have each been charged with participating in a criminal gang and conspiracy to commit murder. Floyd County Police allege they are members of “the Base,” described as a violent organization that is seeking to “establish a white ethno-state.” A different judge denied them bond in February.
In their bond request, Lane’s attorneys highlighted the disease caused by the coronavirus, COVID-19, saying social distancing is impossible in the jail and that there is no access to disinfectant products, gloves and masks there. The measures taken by the jail to prevent the spread of COVID-19, they added, are “wholly inadequate.”
The jail has had no cases of COVID-19, said Sgt. Anthony Cromer, a spokesman for the Floyd Sheriff’s Office. Staff and detainees must wear masks and gloves while moving around the jail, which has designated a separate area to house detainees, if they become sick, Cromer said.
“We are screening all of our staff two times per shift at least,” Cromer said. “We are limiting contact. We have stopped all services in the back of the jail where civilians come in and go to the back for counseling or religious services. All of that is done by video now.”
Leigh Patterson, the district attorney for Floyd, declined to comment.
The Bartow County man who was the alleged target of the murder plot said he was informed of the bond hearing by the court’s victim advocate. The news added to the stress he and his wife have felt since being informed of the plot, he said.
“The last couple of months have been an unending string of traumas,” he said.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is withholding the man’s name as the alleged target of a conspiracy by a hate group.
The social isolation required by the COVID-19 pandemic, the man added, has made recovery from the shock of being targeted by a hate group more difficult. He was surprised the alleged Base members thought they might be released.
“They do not need to be out among the public,” he said. “In this case, I’m glad the judge did the right thing.”
Last month, a federal judge refused to set bond for a Maryland man linked by the FBI to the same white supremacist group.Brian Mark Lemley Jr.’sattorney cited the virus and Lemley’s risk of infection behind bars,The Baltimore Sun reported. Lemley has been indicted on gun-related charges.