The lawyer representing Patrik Mathews is moving to quash criminal charges in a U.S. federal court against his client, a former Manitoba army reservist allegedly involved in a plot to trigger a race war.
Joseph Balter sought in a motion Monday to dismiss two criminal charges. He also pushed the federal court to separate his client's trial from the legal proceedings of two co-accused.
Mathews vanished from his home in Beausejour, northeast of the city, last year amid allegations he was a recruiter for a white-supremacist group called The Base. At the time, he was a combat engineer with the 38 Canadian Brigade Group in Winnipeg.
Mathews and two Americans, both alleged members of the violence-promoting neo-Nazi group, were arrested in the U.S. in January.
In his motion, Balter claims the "vast majority of the discovery" does not relate to Mathews' alleged offences. Balter claims the jury will be incapable of separating the "substantially broader" evidence needed to prove the other two men were motivated by The Base.
"To prove Mr. Mathews' offence, the government only needs to show limited evidence regarding Mr. Mathews' possession of a firearm," the motion reads.
Allegedly seeking an 'ethno-state'
Mathews is facing a total of four charges, each of which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison: two counts each of two charges related to possessing and transporting a firearm and ammunition while in the country illegally.
Prosecutors allege in court documents, filed earlier this year, that Mathews videotaped himself advocating for killing people, poisoning water supplies and derailing trains to incite a civil war in the name of creating a white "ethno-state."
On Monday, Balter filed motions to quash much of the amassed evidence against his client.
Balter argued the federal agents did not establish probable cause to permit the warrants for Mathews' phone and email address.
The lawyer said the government relied upon evidence gathered against other individuals. The agents "cherrypicked the most inflammatory statements" in applying for the warrants, while excluding the instances where members of The Base were told to not do anything illegal.
Balter also argued the government did not demonstrate that Mathews showed any imminent intent to commit a hate crime or incite riots and as such, Mathews' communication is protected free speech.
Balter pushed as well to suppress video surveillance footage and wiretapped audio, arguing the government did not exhaust less intrusive methods of investigation first.
He asked to quash any "statements, admissions, or confessions" made in an interrogation following Mathews' arrest in Maryland, where he remains in federal custody.
Previous court documents alleged Mathews and one of his alleged co-conspirators, Brian Lemley Jr., were planning to violently disrupt a massive gun-rights rally in January in Richmond, Va.
Investigators used a closed-circuit television camera and microphone, hidden in a home in Delaware, to record Mathews calling the Virginia rally a "boundless" opportunity.
"All you gotta do is start making things go wrong and if Virginia can spiral out to [expletive] full-blown civil war," the documents quote Mathews as saying.
FBI agents arrested the trio — the third accused is William Bilbrough — Jan. 16 as part of a broader investigation of The Base. Authorities in Georgia and Wisconsin also arrested four other men linked to the group, which has been attracting scrutiny from law enforcement.
Investigators found a number of videos on a computer belonging to Mathews, including one that depicts him wearing a gas mask and distorting his voice.
"The time for violent revolution is now, that time is already here, it's here right now as we speak," the documents quote Mathews saying on the video.
"For those who want to do nothing and who want a comfortable life, that's not an option. This is the age of war."